Friday, March 28, 2014

OFFICIAL WIFE: Something in the Mail

I knew I was getting something in the mail. Sometimes ya just know; ya know? Like when you ask your husband to place an order, he does so, and then items are mailed to you...

 --but soft? What purple hue through yonder bubble wrap peeks? (I want you to know that I wiped down my sink right after this picture.)

It's purple raffia and regular raffia! It's BOWS. I didn't know I was getting a PRESENT.

It's TWO. TIMES. the number of BOWS! It is Easter basket worthy already! --but what is a present you don't open? Wouldn't they be offended if I didn't open it???

Plus, it's lit in the diagram, and this looks mighty flammable.

They are yellower than I thought. Yes, I knew they were beeswax candles. Oh, I thought I was going to theme my basket green, but apparently I changed my mind. There's a lotta blue in that picture.

Oh, do you know WHY they are made of beeswax?

(You should always ask WHY.)

Because honey is tasty?


Because the monks need a way to make money?

Well, probably... but they do already have the revenue stream from the calendar!

Then, WHY?

So good of you to AST. (You'll get it soon enough.) It will be our inside joke. Everyone has TOONA, but we'll have AST.

Well, the answer I was given was that it burns without smoke. You're in a building with a bunch of expensive ?paintings? ?pictures?... okay, I'll say it: icons, and other expensive stuff (clothes, stained glass windows, lungs) so you don't want to gum everything up with smoke.

Did you know, though, that beeswax candles actually purify the air? I mean, it's common-- house plants purify the air. Trees purify the air, but those are plants so their functions are intuitive. Who knew beeswax candles purified air?

--and they smell nice. There is also incense involved in the Orthodox church. (Boy, do I sound heebie jeebie.)

It reminds me of Ezekiel 4:9... the bread that is. It never hurts to be a bit scared of things you don't understand. You just need to AST WHY. You may not get an answer or one you get, but AST WHY.

Oh, and my favorite professor (who taught Bible as Literature, introducing me to this amazing concept that the Bible was *gasp* a book!? a book with history!? Yeah, I was that dumb...) told me that science had proven that the day the Bible recommended as the time to perform circumcision was medically optimal. Yep, don't wait on science. It's way behind the curve.

A Lady Who's About to Play with a Bunch of String,

Alex's Little Cromwell


Saturday, March 22, 2014

OFFICIAL WIFE: The Story of Maw Ping

I cleaned the kitchen. I might've even engaged in maw-ping. This is an ancient Chinese practice. It involves strange tools and concoctions:
Before you even get to that part, though, you have to take another strange instrument and rub it over the surface:
When a kitty appears, from thin air, you are to begin the practice of maw-ping.

"How did such a strange habit come about?," the intelligent person will ask.

That is why I will tell you the story of Maw Ping.

During the Ming Dynasty, there lived a woman named Ping. She cursed her mother for giving her a boy's name and ran away in shame at the age of twelve.

For four years she lived in the woods. She ate blackberries and wore scratchy clothes woven from grass. Deer and dogs would bring her things, useful things like an empty milk jug or a sock. The doves led her to sweet cricks and patches of dandelions which were tasty. Eventually, though, she knew something was missing.

She needed to settle down and get married.

Straightway without stopping to pee or pack she went to the nearest human settlement whereupon she raced up and down and up and down and up the streets again... looking.

He wasn't there.

Straightway without stopping to pee or pack she went to the next nearest human settlement whereupon she raced up and down and up and down and up the streets again... looking.

He wasn't there. She was disappointed so she took a nap. Naps usually remedy grouchiness (or so we're told). During her nap, she had a dream. In this dream a cat told her, "Just give it one more try! You're doing so well! What a shame it would be to give up...."

She woke up, feeling refreshed, drank some water, and entered the next human settlement whereupon she raced up and down and up and down and up the streets again... looking.

He was there!

She gave him a ring and said, "Now, I'm going to go 'hide.' You come find me and give me this ring. Then, we'll build a house and live happily ever after."

So she hid. He found her. He gave her the ring. They built a house, and they lived happily ever after.

...but this is the beginning of a story...

As time passed, which time does from time to time (or so we are told), it happened that a dog or a cat--usually a cat-- would appear on the doorstep of the house they built. They would have the most amazing stories of need and sorrow. Here are a few of the stories which have survived the centuries:
Meep! Meep-meep! Mrrrrow!
Prrrdump! Prrruh? Purrrdow!
*shows belly*
Yes, stories of those sort, the sort that leaves no eye dry. So she would take them in and pay the witch doctor; then, they would remain forever in the house that Ping and her husband built living off toona and cuddles.

There came a time when it seemed there were SO many cats and dogs. Ping began to despair about the condition of her floors. They were so... dirty.

--but first Ping had to fill out a tax return. For her tax return, she counted her dogs, which numbered forty, and she tried to count her cats but lost count around 148 so she wrote, "About one-eighth the entire cat population, whatever that is."

Days came and went, and toona and cuddles were had.

One day something STRANGE happened!!!!

A lady knocked on her door!!!

She crept through the dark foyer and peeked through the window. It was a lady dressed like a cop with FBI written on her sleeve. Ping, who was quite old by now, opened the door, but knew she was still protected by the Tricked Out Screen Door of Secrets, "Why are you on my property?!"

"Ms. Ping, I am Díor Bioré with the IRS," she said. She whispered confidentially, "--that's the guvments," before announcing in a very business-like tone, "Your cats are being audited."

Feeling quite relieved that it was something so mundane (How many times had she already been through this? She didn't even remember at the ripe age of three hundred and three.) she let the lady in.

"Folks around here call me Ol' Maw Ping, if you please. Make yourself at home. You're welcome to all the cats you can count or carry or cajole or carouse!" Ping laughed, thinking how clever she was. "Would you like some tea?"

"No, thankyou, ma'am, and Ms. Ping will do just fine. I'm just doing my job, and I'll be right at it. ... Now, if the cats will please form a single line. No cutting and no elbow jabbing. This will be very orderly, and I hope not to take too much of your time."

Ol' Maw Ping turned and rolled her eyes. She made herself a nice hot pot of tea then settled in to watch the entertainment:

"Here kitty-kitty! Here! Here kitty?"


"--and your name is?"
"Which one do you want? I've got 152."
Díor sighed in despair, but then thought she had the problem licked, "Which one are you most often called?"
"I dunno. You'd have to audit the past fifteen years of conversation."

Maw Ping chuckled. This went on for twenty-two days before the lady decided that a career in the IRS wasn't for her. Díor Bioré went on to open a very successful beauty line.

Then Ol' Maw Ping remembered her problem. Her floors!

She thought and she thought and she thought.

Then, she thought some more.

Then, she filled out a census form. Deciding once and for all to stop the insanity, she put a very sophisticated looking symbol next to the number of cats question:
She chuckled, knowing that figuring out that symbol should keep the IRS at bay at least for the rest of her life.

(That is why the last census taken was in 194BC.)

Then, she had an idea! She took out the brush she used to pull off her dogs' winter coats reasoning, "If it works on dogs, it'll work on floors."

So she brushed her floors, and behold it worked quite well.

Still, her floors were dirty.

So she took out the soap and water that she used to bathe her dogs reasoning, "If it works on dogs, it'll work on floors."

It was like magic!

She began to do this every Saturday. People walked for hundreds of miles to watch her at her task. Soon, everyone was doing it! It really took on! Not like leg warmers either, it took on like skirts.

One ancient scholar then said, "What is this called so that I can write of it preserving this practice for the betterment of future generations?"

The mayor, who was a six month old baby boy, immediately replied, "We'll call it maw-ping to honor her who showed us how."

Forevermore, it was called thus. In the modern era, it is spelled mopping, but we know how language twists and turns like a tongue. So remember Ol' Maw Ping....

Love and a (refreshed, I'll have you know) Nut Bar,


Friday, March 21, 2014

OW Cooks: A Bread Series

Continuing on OW Cooks and freed of my anti-carb notions, I believe I shall do a mini-series on bread. It seems that across both time and cultures, bread is the staple of every diet. It may be loaf bread, biscuits, naan, tortilla, grits, pie crust, pizza crust, hominy, or rice. It may be based on any number of grains from garbanzo beans (Is that a grain? Romans.) to the ubiquitous wheat to corn to black bean brownies. ;) There's a story there.

It may be leavened-- yeast, baking powder, baking soda, fermentation-- or unleavened.

But bread is everywhere. I would even lump mashed potatoes into this. Perhaps mashed potatoes are the bread of my people. I ate them more often than biscuits growing up, but most meals had both. By the end of this, you'll definitely be able to find your way passed/past (VOTE BELOW) Sunbeam (inside joke).

Making the bread of your culture, regardless of the specifics, has for centuries been learned by osmosis. It is a sick old hag of a practice, and I'm sad to see it so. Professional bakers by tradition are men, but I want to look into the bread of your home, which is made usually by a mother figure. Depending on the mother, you may learn this skill and perform this chore promptly at the age of four. You may learn it at thirty-eight, while struggling with your own brood and seeking to find the calm of your childhood. What was different? Was it bread? If your mother was my mother, you learned it because she had to answer the phone. You learned it because you were hungry, and she was reading a romance novel. You learned it because it's something to keep you occupied while she's making the rest of the dinner. You learned it racing back and forth from Granny's house, where your mother was, to your own kitchen (which was your own, even when you're seven) pen and paper in hand, between each step, because one step is all you can handle at a time.
Mamaw and I both have our stories of frustration with this recipe. Pie crust ended in tears for our first attempt(s), decades apart.

She made biscuits and chocolate gravy every Sunday before church-- for anyone who wants to come. Now, she only makes it if someone besides her and Papaw will be there. That is not her biscuit recipe but my attempt at taking measurements from what I learned from my mother. Mamaw cooks her biscuits on the stovetop, mixing it in the same bowl, flipping it onto the same white plastic plate with a blue flower design... cooking in the same pan since I was in preschool. She was at a point in life where she could buy finer things so she bought a good cookware set for her and my mom--before that a heavy black iron skillet.
Friendship bread recipe from Miss JoAnn. Strange how the people who help you as a kid are always Miss/Mister. It's an earned respect, even if it didn't start that way. Although, with some joy I might add, I call many people now who were 'adults' when I was a kid by their first name. Some squirm, but nobody says anything. They don't call me Mrs./Ms. either!

Left: LHJ vegetable terrine. I followed a Ladies Home Journal diet in middle school. Right: Springdale cookies. I also got the Martha Stewart magazine as a Christmas present from Mamaw.

A cornbread recipe I wrote as a kid. Self-rising and plain flour was so confusing. Do they even make pre-mixed/leavened flour anymore? It also seems like they don't make saccharin tablets. I had a tea recipe taped into the lid of the tea canister!-- I bet it's still there.

Dump cobbler which was dessert every night for many years at the beginning of their marriage... with a side of burned biscuits. Sausage balls are a Christmas tradition, more recent ~'94 onward?

I didn't find the pizza sauce recipe which was written on purple paper and while frequently storming into Granny's, which included sugar (so did our spaghetti... and the Hawaiian chicken was mostly candied chicken) or the Rice Krispies for Two which I wrote, after much painful math and my first pre-taught experience with the concept of mathematical proportion, when I decided to make just one for me and my brother each. That is the cookie recipe I made so much. I think the first one was from a yellow Nestle bag and involved peanut butter. This is definitely the one I memorized, though.

I'm not sure that there should be recipes for bread. Perhaps some kinds, but not the most basic... certainly not your every day bread. It all depends on the temperature and humidity which varies from place to place and season to season-- even time of day and location within your household. Bread is a thing you teach yourself, like empathy.

 I propose the following posts:
  • Mashed Potatoes, The Bread of My People
  • Biscuits, The Bread of My People
  • Whole Wheat Loaf Bread, The Bread of Ignatiev South (by Alex)
  • Steel Cut Oats, The Bread of Ignatiev South (by Alex)
  • Cornbread and Mush, The Bread of Those Before Me
  • Rice, The Correct Way(s)
  • "Parkerhouse" Rolls
  • Tortillas
  • Pasta
  • Pizza (if only to guarantee Alex will use the Daiya shreds that I got with my birthday money two-three years ago)
  • Pie

So if you my reader, haven't learned as a child how to make the bread of your people/family, is there no hope? --since there is no recipe. Not at all. Sometimes you eat burned biscuits. Sometimes the dogs eat burned biscuits. Sometimes, involving baking powder, your digestive system gets a reboot.

All in the pursuit of tall fluffy biscuits! lol

You'll have a harder road than if you grew up baking bread, but it's worth it. Then, you can teach your children.

From a Woman Quite Enjoying This Whole Writing and Taking Pictures Thing,


Thursday, March 20, 2014

OW Cooks: How to Butcher a Bell Pepper

The farmer's market has started back up for the year. GUESS what I'm having for lunch tomorrow???
 No really. Guess.

 First of all, that tomato is 1lb 9.8oz. I bet you didn't notice the little one... I grew that. It's the only tomato my black krim has made so far. I bought this black krim plant from the farmer's market at the beginning of last year's season.

You know what I must do with this giant tomato. You know.

I'm going to toast TWO--


Slices of .... BREAD.

--slathered in kitty crack.--

--and put on ONE.


Slice of BREAD.

--a center cut from this tomato. Then I will sprinkle on Bacos and heap it with the green ends of romaine.

And I will have a sandwich!!

I might make him a sandwich, too. He doesn't really seem as excited as me.

"Wife! Make me a sandwich!" Of course. I love making him lunches! :) I was a Sandwich Artist at two different restaurants for several years.

--but for the college kid in a few years that stumbles on this, you are probably interested in cutting up veg... I hope. I do so hope. So on to it. My favorite farmer's market stall was selling bell peppers 3/$1--I consider the buying price to be 2/$1-- so we bought six. I cut up three for the next three days. Once washed or prepared in any way, veg rapidly goes bad.

Slice both ends off of a bell pepper and set them aside. Then make one slice perpendicular along the edge.

Unroll it. The knife is just weighing it down for the picture. Use your hands to pull out the seeds and webbing.

Slice this roll into strips. This is for Alex's salads. If frozen, it can be used in Fajita Veg (upcoming entry) which is very low cal and high volume.

Returning to the top end slice--

 Turn it a quarter way and slice again. Repeat.
 Slice the bottom, and then dice your slices from the top/bottom.

This is all that's left. I'd call all but the little top bit in the lower right (the stem) edible, but my family discards everything in the picture above. You might lightly toast the seeds to eat or plant them with a portion of the flesh. Seeds can also be spread on paper/newspaper and dried then planted later. The flesh would likely go unnoticed in any cooked application... but I'll let you decide when to hide black beans in brownies or put some pureed liver in dressing...

... lol ...


These three baggies of slices from the sides go in the fridge for quickly assembled salads--

--and I added the diced peppers to the freezer. Bell peppers can be pretty expensive so we pick them up on Quick Sell/Manager's Special. I cut out any bruised, moldy, or sickly lookin' part. Then, I cut them up and freeze them. Diced peppers usually go on pizza and slices in stir fry. Frozen peppers are wet, limp, and no longer too great on a salad.

Love and I still don't know what I'm making this week (peanut butter broccoli stir fry or steamed edamame or romaine/red onion/olive/Goddess-dressing salad or nut bar[which was scheduled for last week. I made it and have been munching.... munching... munching. It's on the counter in the kitchen as you enter the den, so easy to grab a few!]),

A Fairy Princess Photographer... with sparkles!

PS: Oh, we went to the zoo Sunday! $5/ea! I got some great shots:
This lemur eyes you suspiciously...


squabbling over who's tallest

I want to do another one of these on the 'fast' setting.

Alex had to take this as both myself and the tortoise are quite short. This lil' 3' fence set 3' away was quite an obstacle.

He 'nommed' himself forward. It was cy00t!
If you piece the highest points of his shell together in your mind, you can see how far he's come. He was an ickle wickle! --and I've no doubt some has rubbed off.

I leave you with my favorite:
They've put in a petting zoo with goats! I LOVE GOATS!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

OW Cooks: How to Butcher a Bunch of Celery

I am going to do a series of very basic cooking entries. This one, hummus, an extensive soup one, a series on bread... How little so many people know about cooking has just shocked me. Anyone who is poor or who is looking to be healthier and/or bank some money: YOU NEED TO COOK.

So, I apologize for lingering long on basics, but I have the feeling a small portion of the population needs it. They are worth rescuing.

First, let me tell you a story. We had a couple over once, and I made some celery sticks while they were here. The woman was very critical of how I was doing this, but my stubborn kicked in so I did it my way. The next time we were at her house, she made a point of bringing out some celery. I think it was purchased for that reason, actually. Then she cut through in just two slices, producing a lovely stack of 3" sticks and wasting better than half the plant, "That is how you cut celery..."

Getting no reaction (I do NOT like confrontation.), "What do you think of that?"

"It's not my place to tell a lady, in her house, how to cut up her celery. Her celery that she worked to get the money to buy, furthermore. I'm not going to do that. You do what you want with your celery."

The guys got a kick out of that, but was she mad! She slammed it down and left the room.

Sometimes I do alright. Sometimes. I never know until after the fact. If I can't think of something good to say (by good--- non-aggressive and honest, not necessarily clever), it's best to just take it. Take whatever they can dish. Surviving is itself a victory.

My days of socializing, however, are firmly over.

Well, call me weird. I am Yoda, now. Yoda was weird. He was green and fuzzy with pointy ears.

deceptively simple is cutting up celery

I will show you the ways of the vegetable force!

Above is a bunch of celery that has been pulled apart, and I've rinsed the dirt away. I didn't bother pulling the ribs of the yellow core (fore) apart.

Now here are some sample pieces from short to tall. The first thing I do is pull the leaves off. These can be added to salads for a peppery bite or to soups for a milder celery taste. I've taken the leaves off all ribs in the photo.

Next, I cut the bottom off the core, the shortest piece. It's the biggest part of what I won't use, but you can try to sprout it. Try. Best to plant the whole core if you want a plant.

Then, the longest piece, I severed at the joint at the top.

a closer look at the joint
 I prefer to do this in stages by product. Here I have removed all leaves:

Like any prepared/cleaned green for salads, this is best preserved by sprinkling in a single layer on a clean cloth (bath towel if you have a horde to feed, wash cloth if you, kitchen towel, anything) and rolled up and put in the crisping drawer.

Then, I cut the tops off at the joint. Some of these are tall enough above that to pass for celery sticks. Cut the two-pronged bottom off and set aside with the other ribs of celery. The rest will be diced for soups, sauteés, and stir fries. See the three short bits facing me? I cut the blackened end off creating a new end. This is entirely unnecessary. It is only dessicated (or dried out). However, as with the top bits that will pass for celery sticks, preferences will vary from family to family. You won't be able to tell at all if you put this in soup or use it to make stock so I encourage using it. All that makes that color is some water missing.

 Slice them into matchsticks, then dice them up. They go in the freezer to flavor future dishes!

Now we get to the perfectly shaped green three inch crudité so craved of from this plant! Line them up and cut. Be thoughtful about the shorter bits, slicing a sliver from the root end and sorting into 'guest' celery sticks (like I have guests?!?!?? Except Non-Ortho Friend, who I always fill the table for) and 'us' celery sticks.

The above is all that was wasted. In fact, it could still be easily used to flavor broth. You could also compost it.

Love and ... I don't know what  I'm sending this week,

A Lady Who KNOWS You Only Have to Be Poor Once
It Sticks Like a Spaghetti Noodle!

PS: I must say this is  not a rule. This is helpful advice... maybe. If it helps you, yay! If you don't want to do this, don't, but don't disparage those who do, perty please.