Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dehydrated Tomatoes

I love shopping at the local Farmer’s Market and on Thursday bought a peck of Roma tomatoes with the plan to use the food dehydrator to preserve them.  We don’t have a large freezer and I don’t have a pressure canner so drying seems a good choice.  I cut out the cores and laid the quarter inch slices on the 8 trays – and still have some left so have some sauce started on the stove.  I plan to try this recipe for dried tomatoes with basil in oil.  
Olive Oil Packed Sun Dried Tomatoes with Basil

4 cups dried tomatoes (from about 12-16 cups fresh tomatoes)
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
1 pint canning jar with air tight lid
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Step One:
Sterilize a pint jar by washing with soapy water and then pouring boiling water over the inside and outside of the jar.  Boil the screw band and lid in hot water. 

Step Two:
Once the jar is dry begin placing the dried tomatoes into the bottom.  Use a clean skewer or spoon to pack the tomatoes together.  Then add a couple sprigs of basil.  Continue layering tomatoes and basil until the jar is full.  Then pour olive oil slowly over the top.

Step Three: 
Insert the skewer or the handle of the spoon down along the sides of the jar five to six times to force any air pockets out.  Make sure the oil completely cover the tomatoes.  Seal with the sterilized lid and band and refrigerate up to one month.

The bonus with packing in olive oil is you get both tomatoes and olive oil flavored with the dried tomatoes. The oil is great for salad dressing, dipping bread or making pasta.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"You look like Miss Lynch!"

“You look like Miss Lynch!” Paul said as he walked in the door and saw me wearing a floral print apron over my work clothes.   “That’s just the look I was going for – vintage!” I responded with a grin.  Miss Lynch was one of several elderly school teachers we had while attending Junior High at the old Central High School in the late 1960’s.  Each one had a seemingly endless wardrobe of blue floral print dresses – some with matching jackets, hence Paul’s observation.
I had ruined one too many blouses by coming home from work and going right to the stove to cook dinner – grease on a silk blouse that didn’t come out despite serious hand washing and a trip to the dry cleaner’s was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  I decided I needed an apron that would cover not just the skirt but also my front.

So I searched the internet and found an array of patterns – many for free, and started tracing them out on sheets of newsprint before sewing them together from  vintage-like fabric.  The one Paul admired was even trimmed in bias tape, further enhancing the retro look.  I bought a cute old pillowcase from the thrift store and made an apron from that – the decorative hem of the pillowcase became the hem of the skirt, and the waistband and ties were cut and sewn from the other end.  The one I like best is cut from just one yard of fabric, but on the bias.  It wraps around to my back, and meets the criteria my friend said an apron requires – covering the backside where she wipes her hands when cooking.  
The blessing in all of this is a return to the sewing machine.  It’s been sitting unused for some time – which is a big change from my junior high and high school years when I sewed nearly all my own clothes.  When the kids were going to Halloween parties, I sewed a number of costumes, the most memorable being Big Bird for pre schooler Heather and Cookie Monster for toddler Jason.   In more recent years I’d use the machine to make an occasional Christmas gift – like the year I made a nightshirt of wild bear printed flannel for Heather in remembrance of her encounter with bears while backpacking the previous summer. 

Heather says she and her friends lament the fact that their generation seems to have lost the art of taking care of themselves – many don’t know how to cook from scratch, sew clothing, can vegetables, or grow a garden.  I was blessed to have a mother who taught me to sew – I still laugh when I think of her teaching me to match plaids by telling of a jumper she made with matching plaids, but the zipper installed inside out so she had to pull it closed by reaching INSIDE to pull it up.  I guess it was such an ordeal that she was reluctant to take it apart for fear she’d never get those plaids to line up again!
In my current apron sewing spree, I’m discovering a renewed love for sewing - the act of taking a piece of fabric and cutting and sewing it to fit around the body to make something pretty and practical all at the same time.  Eventually I’ll lose interest in sewing yet another apron design, and move on to other creative pursuits.  In the meantime, I’m blessed by my time at the sewing machine as I put creative juices to work making aprons – that make me look like Miss Lynch!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's Like Herding Cats

Apparently I started this - in January 2011 and never published it.  We eventually did end up reading the book and enjoyed it, as well as the snippets of videos by Patsy at the beginning of each class.  Our group of women has increased and we've continued to study books, including the most recent one, Stained Glass Hearts, also by Patsy Clairmont.  We've grown closer to one another and drawn closer to Christ as we've studied and laughed together.

Our Women's Sunday School Class is like herding cats!  And that's my blessing from yesterday.

(Google "herding cats" and watch the video of cowboys herding cats.  This was a commercial for a software company meant to reinforce their ability to pull all the pieces together and make order out of chaos. Being a cat lover, and having tried many times in the past to geta group of people all moving in the same direction, I find this hilarious!) 

Our group started with a dozen who had prepurchased the book Kaleidoscope by Patsy Clairmont and grew the first week to include several more.  We had to drag an extra table into our room.  Like little kids, we played with my friend's collection of kaleidoscopes, and laughed ourselves silly watching a video of Patsy at a Women of Faith Conference a couple years ago.  We had yet to actually STUDY a Proverb, but during the week, several more signed on and we ordered still more books.

Yesterday we had 17 ladies there, with 3 missing - due to illness and snow filled driveways (that driveway is like climbing Mount Everest - I wouldn't drive up or down it until summer if I lived there!) We talked about Proverbs 27:1 - and got a little sidetracked into diversity until one lady gathered us back - just like the cowboys herding the cats.  We spoke of the difference between bragging and boasting, and humility, and ended by talking of planning for tomorrow and what we would take with us into a new day. 

Because we had to drag in still another table to make room for everyone, we've decided to move the class upstairs to a larger space next time.  Hope everyone in the group finds us in our new location!

And the Farmers That Grew It!

We have a friend who ends each table grace with thanksgiving for "the farmers that grew it!"  He's been involved in agriculture since college - probably before that, since that's what he studied in college.  So he's especially aware of what it takes to be a farmer.  Tonight I thought of Terry as I ate my first bowl of lettuce from my garden this year.  In other years I've grown enough spring lettuce that I could hardly give it all away.  Not so the last couple years - just can't seem to get it going.  My Simpson Elite sprouts but won't grow - maybe I need to water a little more carefully?  Perhaps it's been too hot?? I have a single square foot of mixed greens and one of arugula - both are doing well, and I harvested enough tonight for two bowls.  Mmmmm!  The spicy taste of arugula and the peppery mustard greens -  Delicious!  Sorry, Wegmans - your produce department just can't compare!

So I'm saying a prayer of thanksgiving for farmers, knowing that if I relied on myself to FEED myself, I'd quickly grow hungry!  (Or more serious about gardening!) The Auburn Farmer's Market opens this Saturday and I hope to be one of the early customers.  Will there be lettuce for sale?  (My little bed of mixed greens isn't going to fully satisfy my desire for salads.) What about spinach or garlic scapes - a new culinary discovery from last year!

I thank God for the farmers that grow our food!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Warm Toes, Warm Tushie

As the fall days alternate between periods of summer like temperatures, and decidedly cooler temps, I am enjoying two recent indulgences.

The first is my heated bathroom floor.  Installed last winter, we turned it off in the spring, rather enjoying the cool tile on our feet duirng the hot summer.  Paul turned the thermostat back up in September - which seemed a little early to me (our heat hasn't even been on yet this year.)  But one morning, I stepped on the bathroom floor with my bare feet, and noticed it was warm.  Aaahh!  How nice!  My brother, who did  most of the work for us, was the one who suggestd the heated floor.  Only when I felt a sample heated tile at the home improvement store did I fully realize how nice it would be.  Caryl said that sadly, we would probably take that warmth for granted after a while.  The bathroom remodeling job was much needed, and we did it right - excellent quality cabinets, lots of new plumbing, everything matching towels and bathmats.  As I worried a bit about the cost, Paul pointed out we were only going to do it once - and it hadn't been done since before we bought the house nearly 30 years ago. Time for a makeover. 

Shortly after the bathroom was finished, I had the trusty old green 1998 Subaru inspected.  Our mechanic solemnly told me, when I picked it up, "It's good for now, but it won't pass inspection another year - the frame is showing some real signs of rust.  So we knew the time had come to start thinking about a new car - or at least a new to us new car.  We finally got around to it in the summer.

In August we picked up a spiffy looking white Subaru - ten years newer than the old one - a 2008.  A lot has changed in ten plus years of cars - starting with an electronic key to open the doors.  I have power windows instead of crank windows.  I had to exchange my old cassettes for CD's, and instead of using a lever to move my car seat forward, it's all electric.  (Actually that's a nuisance - it takes LONGER to use the electric button than it did the old lever!)  But the most indulgent thing of all is the heated seats in the front.  And I've turned mine on a couple times already.  No need to heat the entire car - in fact it won't warm up between my house and the parking lot at work since I live so close.  But that little switch turns on the warmth to my tushie in just a few seconds. 

Now that's a blessing - warm toes in the morning, and a warm tushie in my car. 
And I'm still not taking either one for granted.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review: Praying in the Messiness of Life, by Linda Douty

The title was appealing. Whose life doesn’t seem messy at times? Following a transformative experience at a Walk to Emmaus retreat years ago, I found myself wanting to pray and study more regularly and more effectively than I previously had. I struggled to find ways to do that in the midst of a busy life, and having now discovered Douty’s book, wish it had been available to me then.

I immediately identified with Douty, admiring her honesty in admitting she at first just tried harder, to reach the closeness with God that she sought. She asks, “How can I open myself to growth in this crazy, busy life? What can I actually do, rather than constantly wishing it would change?” Her book explores a variety of approaches to prayer that are extraordinarily accessible, and practical, and really make a difference.

For example, I recently needed to walk a short distance from one building on the campus of my workplace to another. Instead of just walking along, anticipating the upcoming staff meeting, I deliberately prayed a version of Douty’s syncopated steps from the chapter on Praying with the Body. With each step, I prayed, “Fa-ther, Son and Ho-ly Ghost. Fa-ther Son and Holy Ghost.” When I found myself distracted a couple times, I let it go and returned to my prayer. What an invigorating walk that turned out to be! My attitude at the meeting and through the rest of my day was far different than it otherwise would have been. Such a simple approach to prayer, and it fit right in to the busyness of my day.

Douty’s presentation of dozens of simple approaches to prayer will help any believer draw nearer to God, in a relationship that becomes more and more in depth as it becomes more and more a part of every moment of one’s busy life.

I received this book free from Upper Room Books as part of their Book Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Blink and You'll Miss It!

Last evening Paul pointed out the two robins hopping around the neighbor's yard - they seemed a little confused by the patch of lingering snow.  But I was glad to finally see the birds whose song I've been hearing the last week or so.

I intended to get out this week and snap a picture of the snowdrops poking out of the snow - but by the time I actually went out with the camera, the snow was gone, and all that was left were the snowdrops. Nestled up against the house, they often bloom through a bit of snow or ice; the first indicator of spring.  The resiliency of nature.

And then this morning, it had snowed again.  So I could go back out and get another picture.  But I probably won't.

Such is spring in central New York - winter one minute, spring the next, with an occassional blast of summer thrown in just to keep you on your toes.