Monday, December 26, 2022

Another Christmas means another year has gone by.

Throughout each year there are milestones; birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries and special days of various sorts, but when we get into the Christmas festivities, I start thinking about the year as pretty much being a "wrap". Soon, I'll start having to write '23 on the items that go into the freezer, and on the notes I jot down in the cards and packages I snail-mail out.  

I remember when I was a kid that it always seemed like a momentous thing - changing years ðŸ˜®- and having to get used to writing the new year on schoolwork. Even in my twenties, it was a bit of a struggle using the correct year when handwriting checks to pay bills, and when writing letters to send to friends far and wide. Now, each year seems to fly by so fast it's like "what's the big deal?" I'm thankful that my life is such that starting a new year holds no trepidation for me. I know that for many, a new year means new worries; will I get laid-off, will the bills get paid and on and on. Life comes with no guarantees; just wishes, hopes and prayers. And on that note, I wish, hope and pray that you and yours have a safe, healthy, fulfilling New Year. I hope it's 'a cut above' what's come before.

Speaking of a cut above, that's the name of a show I streamed the other day while working on my sewing project. It's a competition for chainsaw carvers and boy is it cool to watch them go at it. It was addictive. I snapped a pic of 4 of the best carver's work during one episode. These people do amazing work in 7 or 8 hours. Check it out for fun. I'm streaming it via Xfinity on the Discovery network.

Courtesy of Xfinity/Discovery - I hope they don't mind.

My sewing project, a Puff Quilt, is a fun challenge. I've never quilted before and although I've worked on really large projects like the sailboat dodger this quilt has a lot of small pieces. Here's the dodger: (If you wanted to see other sewing projects, click this LINK).

The windshield section was over 16' long.

Shown stretched-out after attaching the side
triangle pieces to the center top section. Whew.

Anyway, the quilt project idea came from a post on someone's instagram page. I thought about how much beautiful fabric I had hanging around after tiring of making my trivets. Remember my trivets? I used to sew them while onboard Dreamtime. Here's a refresher pic, and if you want to see some of the completed trivets follow this LINK.

My Trivet "how-to" instructional pic.

So I did a "proof of concept" project for my sister, a cute & colorful little lounging pillow. I loved the way it came out and decided to dive into a small lap/nap quilt for myself. 250 or so square "pockets" later, I started trying to figure out my layout to determine whether I needed more of one color or another.

The colors will feature dark purples/reds and blues/greens
with a swath of lighter yellows/pinks coming in from the side.

While not pursuing this project, (it's going to take a while, lol), I made time to gen-up a big batch of french toast for the freezer. Also some lemon cookies with candied ginger and slivered almonds.

Just butter it up straight from the freezer and
nuke it for 30-60 seconds on high, yum & easy.

The candied ginger and almonds take this cookie to 
new heights. They're made from a cake mix! YAY!

Oh, I also made the pumpkin loafs we liked so much, one plain, and 2 smaller ones with raisins and pecans. My wonderful neighbors shared it with us.

Made from a Libby's Mix - so fantastically spiced.

We cheated with Christmas dinner and reheated leftovers from our big blowout Thanksgiving dinner. 'Sacre bleu'. I had vacuum sealed sliced turkey, baked dressing balls, and turkey gravy cubes (made in my handy-dandy 2" silicone ice cube trays). All I had to do was make rice, steam the asparagus and get the cranberry sauce ready. 

It all tasted fantastic and we enjoyed every bite, we even have enough for another round in a day or two. Note: most often, if I'm planning on vacuum sealing and freezing something tender like dressing, I'll put it on a piece of parchment paper and a plate and run it into the freezer to freeze. Then I take it out and vacuum seal it. Nothing gets squished or deformed that way.

We warmed up the Florida Room enough to eat out there.
Our temps on Christmas started out at 26° and didn't
get much warmer, but the skies were very blue and it was sunny.

Well, that's about it for this post, thanks for stopping by to read it. Hope your holidays were wonderful. See you next time.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Early December; baking, visiting, craft projects.

 We're still finding plenty to do around here, between cleaning & organizing, crafts and sewing, computer maintenance and various cooking endeavors we stay busy. Busy is happy!

We seemed to have moved into our winter weather pattern, a bit gloomy at times but nice temps around 70°. Windows and doors opened for a big swath of the day.

The other day the Boss got busy on the windows and screens of the florida room, which run the whole width of the house. Thank you Honey!

He does a *much* better job than me - very thorough.

Meanwhile I did something for him (and me), I baked a fruitcake. Some people might groan but we love fruitcake, loaded with pecans, raisins and candied peel.  We split a slice with our hot tea after dinner & it can't be beat. 

I have more baking plans but this had to be done early so I could season it properly with bourbon before it's debut in a couple or 3 weeks.

An easy recipe which turns out beautifully
each time. You can find it on the recipe page if 
you are interested in checking it out.

I also managed to (finally) have a lunch meet-up with Nancy, a friend from cruising. We went to a deli/butcher shop, which turned out to be very popular with the lunch crowd, deservedly so. Saw this amusing "old-timey" sign when in line to order. We found a nice table out in their outside dining area and chatted away.

We joked about them needing another sign about using "inside voices" as some rowdy car salesmen were "conversing" (shouting) with each other, a little decorum guys.

I found a good price on ham shanks and bought one a couple of weeks back. Doubled down on collard greens too and had quite a feast on that, with lots of yummy leftovers.

Sliced ham ready to be bagged up and put in the freezer.

Collards and cornbread can't be beat. I sauté onions, chopped ham or ham hock in olive oil, add fresh minced garlic, chipotle sauce and chicken stock (1 C), then add the washed and chopped collards to the pot and let it simmer for a few hours. So good, and good for you too.

Mincing garlic has always bugged me. I've never found a garlic press that worked for me - until now, that is.. I love it.

I keep the peeled garlic cloves in the freezer, then 
do the rock-a-bye thing on them to get the above result.
So easy and quite an easy clean up too.

Got a few decorations out and set up our 2 small trees plus made up a couple of floral decorations too. It was fun. Here's a small countertop lighted vase that I put onto the kitchen counter. So pretty lit up at night.

Next blog I'll do a bit more show and tell on the outside decorations and on my newest sewing obsession.  Meanwhile, here's a shot of some of the fabric I will be using.

Wonder what I've got in mind?? We'll see.

On the computer repair front, the Boss was having some power issues with his 'vintage' HP. Since the battery was shot and was generating a CMOS error during boot, we ordered a replacement, then proceeded with making sure we had a good recovery usb and backup.  The next step was popping the skins and making the swap. I was nervous as I hadn't done any hardware maintenance on a laptop in a long time. I got started and got-er-done.

Pretty daunting, but knowing we had a new Dell on order helped
alleviate the jitters. I was so nervous I had to close the door to my work
room. I work well under pressure, just not so much with an audience.

That's it for this addition, thanks for stopping by, and we'll see you next time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Thanksgiving comes and goes, foodie stuff

 Time scoots right along on by, but that's ok as long as everyone is healthy, happy and staying busy. It's getting late in the year and I'm starting to get a bit excited about Christmas season, but let's not forget one of my other favorites, Thanksgiving. Much more low-key, (most holidays are pretty low-key around here), and full of thanks to the Lord for all His blessings. 

By now, we are fully back in the groove around here after our return from our summer retreat. This is likely to become a food-centric post as that's what's on my mind most often.  Here's a gander at the 13#/.49¢ lb. turkey I picked up, along with the pan-roasted cornbread dressing. It was so-o good and I was thrilled it came out OK. It's been a while since I roasted a whole bird, luckily I inherited my MIL's roasting pan.

I dry-brined it overnight which added flavor and kept it moist.

We still have some of the Saraceni Blumond sparkling wine we discovered in Italy a few years back, (btw they ship to the US), to have with it. I was surprised the other day while talking to my sister - she and her clan always eat mashed potatoes with their turkey dinner. We are definitely rice people. Haha, different strokes I guess.

Here's a shot of the price tag from the turkey.

Last year I couldn't find a smallish one and 
the big ones were so expensive, so 
I was pretty happy with this year's offerings.

Many years ago I used to water-bath can jams, pickles, preserves and the like, but all the related jars/pots/utensils went away when we moved aboard Dreamtime. I decided to get back into it only this time I've invested in a good quality pressure canner in order to broaden the range of things I can put up. Sky's the limit now for sure! It'll be fun!  So I've been doing some of that, buying meats when on sale to take advantage of low prices (they're just going to go up 😒). Hence, a 2nd 49¢ per lb turkey in our freezer. 

These All American canners are awesome, and
can last forever, a super nice hand-me-down.

The great thing about putting some meats, chili or stews up is that they can be a fast and easy meal, or can become burritos, sandwich spread, casseroles etc. Who knows which way the wind will be blowing by next year. My Orthopedic Dr. wants me to have foot surgery. Can you imagine the logistics of shopping/cooking while on crutches? It would be nice to have some heat & eat's put by.  Anyway..

Here's a shot of my latest obsession, dried mango from Aldi's. It's my go to dessert these days. Try some!

I tried several brands when we were out west
and none held a candle to these.

For those of you who thrift out there, my latest great find, a stained glass, lighted Christmas votive for $2.99! Wow, really well made (and it would have taken me several hours to make myself).

This is the real deal, can't wait to put it out 
with my other decorations in another 
week or so. We like to wait until the 2nd 
week in December to decorate.

We've had some nice weather for eating out back on the deck. It's a  wonderful and intimate setting for a nice dinner.

Not to mention the lovely sunrises. Here's a shot taken about a week ago.

Morning on the lake. Our resident male swan patrols for geese
 and ducks he can run off. He can really move when he wants.

It's been a while since my last post, and I've taken a bunch of shots and have a fair amount left to say, but I think I will save some for next time.

Thanks for dropping by, hopefully it won't be so long til the next one. 😊

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Fall fun and food passions

 As I write this, fall has been in full swing in many of the other parts of the country, not to mention up in Canada. Leaf peepers have seen the glory of the fall colors and now many trees are past peak. Not so much fall weather here yet. We've had a total of maybe a week or 10 days of cooler temps and crystal blue skies. Sleeping with the windows open and smelling that crisp air is so wonderful, I want more!

One of my wonderful neighbors gifted us with a stellar loaf of Iced Pumpkin Bread, how cool is that. It is delicious, especially after dinner with a cup of hot tea. Generous and thoughtful 💖 She gets the "good neighbor" award for sure.

So good, so moist and the spices are on point too.

For me, this is the food time of year. I can have fun making many of our favorite dishes and stock the freezer as well.  On the docket this week was the Ree Drummond King Ranch Chicken Casserole recipe, which is pretty labor intensive the way I make it, but hearty and oh-so-good. I do a lot of the prep work a day or 2 in advance to pace myself - (sounds so dramatic, huh?). Here's what it looks like at assembly time.

Top left, corn tortillas & chipotle sauce, well-simmered and
seasoned pinto beans, cheddar cheese shreds, a bowl of
sauteed mushrooms, onions and red & green bell peppers,
and a bag with the whole, torn up rotisserie chicken.

Let the layering begin! Out of the picture is a big pot of Tex-Mex seasoned "gravy" which gets ladled on after each layer. It's much like making lasagna; sauce, then torn-up tortillas, chicken, pintos, the mushroom mixture, shredded cheese then the magic gravy.. Repeat.

The first layer in process, with mushroom mixture just going on.
When you think about 2 layers like that you can tell just
 how hearty it will end up being.

Finally topped up and ready for the oven. After baking, I refrigerate it overnight to not only let the flavors develop but also to make it easier to divvy-up for the freezer.

I got 8 generous (can you say lunch leftovers?)
2-person servings out of this batch. Not bad.

There is always some yard work needed after we get home from the Rockies. The palm tree beds, on the dock level, are full of weeds and the silk flower arrangements are tired after being out in the summer sun. Time to put all that in order. Ship-shape and Bristol finish, haha, we try. 😊

Yep, this is pretty overgrown and awful.

I pull all the weeds and tidy up the lava rocks etc, and
the Boss gets the shop-vac after all the mess that's left behind,
This year our biggest queen palm had a couple of big seed pods
and the seeds were a mess, but we got 'em.

The after shot, taken from the deck, looks so much better.  Here's a shot of one of my silk floral arrangements that I made last year. 

It just dresses up the bulkhead wall and looks pretty.

The other day was the Air Show up at the Naval Air Station. We didn't go, but had hopes that we might get a good fly-by from the Blue Angels (like we did last year). Nope, we saw them from afar but they didn't pass overhead here.  Here's a shot courtesy of the Ft. Lauderdale Air Show.

Love the precision of their formations.

One last shot of a beautiful morning sunrise, so pretty.

Morning sunrise over the lake.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great day!

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Homeward bound

 Sorry this blog is long overdue, but we got very busy at the end of Sept and we're still playing catch-up.  And so it went, the buttoning up of Rocky, our summer abode, and then on the road heading back to Florida and our forever home, where the cleaning, unpacking and organizing is still in progress.  The trip is about 1900 miles and usually requires 4 overnights. We take the 1st night in Fort Collins because by the time every little thing is done, all we want to do is drive down the canyon (45 miles of twisty, slow-going road), shower, eat and crash.  This year we took an extra night so that we only had a short 3-4 hour final leg before rolling into town. This gave us a few hours to work on opening the house up, get the water & fridge turned on, the place aired out, do a small shop and get squared away throughout the afternoon and evening.

The last week out west was pretty busy, and most especially the last couple of days before leaving. We had several boxes with canned/boxed foodstuffs that couldn't go into the car until the last minute for fear of bear activity, so our other "bring-backs" got piled up here and there inside the rig. In our down time, we watched the turkeys enjoy themselves around the park and up on the fence next door to us.

These turkey's got to where they liked sitting up on the fence and preening.
They would come into our park to browse for bugs, then fly up and preen,
then jump down to the property next door which is largely undeveloped.

One day while up at the laundry room I was sitting outside on the phone talking to my sister and I watched this squirrel stock up on pinecones. He'd race across the driveway and up the pine tree, pick out a likely pinecone, and with it in his teeth, race back to the shed and into his entry hole to stash it. I guess his eyes were bigger than his entry point! These cones got stuck and he couldn't get them inside, lol.

Not the best shot but here he is.

And so it began, the long drive back home, first through the diminishing hills of Colorado, and into the huge stretch of agricultural land in the mid-west.

I often wonder exactly what is being grown, sometimes
it's pretty obvious but other times it keeps me guessing.

 As we made our way through the Missouri/Tenn territories we found a few roads with light traffic - what a treat! Driving through big cities, even on the bypasses really taxes the patience of my DH.

Made it home in one piece, and a couple days afterwards, started the big cooking projects, which is fun for me!! 😀  A visit to my handy Publix for a ready-made pizza crust, got a pie made up for supper one night. I always keep on hand the fixings for pizza, it's an easy fix up.

Before the stint in the oven.

One of my first priorities is always to make up some of the dishes that I haven't made over the summer and get them stashed in the freezer for easy, delicious meals on those days I'm not feeling it. The ground beef, black beans and rice filling for stuffed peppers and burritos is a bit time-consuming, (the meat is fully cooked), but so worthwhile. I add plenty of onions, mushrooms and corn plus all the taco-type seasonings that "Tex-Mex" it up, Hatch chilies too. They aren't super spicy, just flavorful. Here's what I ended up with; 3 sets of stuffed peppers, (we ate one set), and 6 burritos. Yum in advance.

With a few tortilla chips these are a favorite. They freeze well
and reheat easily in a covered frying pan, a low oven or the microwave.

I pop these into a covered frying pan, nestled in a "dirty rice"
mixture, pour on some salsa and sharp cheddar, cover them and
let them heat over a low burner for a half hour or so, again more chips.

One of the veggies I love, LOVE most is collards, and you can get a big bunch, cook them and end up with some for the freezer. This time I used a big bunch of turnip greens and a big bunch of collards. Add a ham hock, sauteed onions & garlic, some chipotle sauce and homemade stock and you've got greens to die for, for days! I got 6, 4-serving batches, 5 of which went into the freezer. 😋

Still mopping, polishing and doing laundry, not to mention clearing up our overgrown, weed-infested palm tree beds, but early morning sunrises like this are truly something to be enjoyed with your sweetie and a cup of coffee.

Thanks for checking in, see you the next time.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Time flies by, cooler weather

 Besides the daily "scope-out" of the morning temp's showing a downtrend, the flowers and foliage show us that change is coming. The day before yesterday it was 31° first thing and never rose above the low 50's with thick fog blanketing the canyon. So different from the blue, BLUE skies we normally see.  The electric blanket is on the bed and the tiny electric heater plugged in and ready to turn on if needed overnight.

We had a relatively sedate Labor Day weekend in our park, so dead one day then full of happy campers for the next couple of days and back to just a few "regulars" spread out around the park. 

The cabins and transient RV spots are all empty first thing in
the morning on Fri 9/02/22. By the next morning everything was full. 

Can you say quiet?

We like it both ways just fine, people (and dog) watching and things happening in the pavillion/playground area when it's busy, and bird (and critter) watching when it's quiet.  This time of year the bears are on the prowl trying to get beefed-up for their upcoming hibernation. We have had a momma bear and her cub(s) coming around in search of good eats, however, everyone is pretty disciplined in food & garbage management and there's not much to be had.  The momma knows how to open unlocked car doors, so we had several people whose vehicles were investigated, and one morning the momma and her cub were "treed" up a large pine by the bathhouse. Of course, like you see everywhere, some people don't know how to give wildlife some space, but we had no dramas, thank goodness.

The above video was taken by a "workamper" who's working here for the season. It's also the 1st vid I've tried to post, hopefully it works.

I spied a downy(I think) woodpecker on a cottonwood tree up near the laundry room and tried to get a decent picture of it.

Pretty good camouflage job, just a tiny red 
spot under the chin.

While up near the laundry I spied this (tired) tire cover I found amusing.

Let's not forget these guys running around, wild turkeys. They were very skittish and it was hard to get a good pic, but it looked like a him/her. 

Tom and Mrs. Tom?

I mentioned the flowers showing some signs of the upcoming end of the season, however this lady's planter box has done beautifully over the course of the past few months, thanks in large part to her diligent applications of Miracle Grow I suspect.

How pretty is that? Good job neighbor!

On the cooking front, I've discovered a "new to me" wonderful chipotle product that I don't believe I've seen back east, so I've stocked up on some to take back home. It's a sauce, so it's been pureed, no hassles, so good and so easy to use.

The combination of chipotle, ancho and guajillo chilies makes for a nicely Tex-Mex flavor with a moderately spicy heat. So wonderful added in smallish quantities to stews, chilies and the like. Pour some over enchiladas to tune them up - YAY! When I get home I will fill an ice tray up with this sauce and have handy ice cubes on hand to toss in to my dishes. 

Finally, I will share this cartoon, which is often the case when coming up/down our canyon on the weekends, albeit never that much traffic! Haha. See you the next time, thanks for stopping by.

Courtesy of ??? (I don't remember, please don't be mad 😨)