Tuesday, September 30, 2008

White Crookneck Cushaw

Today was the day. The day I tackled the giant white crook neck cushaw. It weighed in at 21.6 lbs. It is a type of pumpkin that has been traditionally grown in the southern Louisiana area. Notably by Cajuns.
I began by chopping big chunks off, slicing off the peelings and chopping into chunks.
I used this book to get some cushaw recipes. If you want to know the culinary history and recipes of New Orleans, this is the book you must have. It is large, but every little bit in it is interesting and delightful. It contains lots of history and the storeys of real people and the food they eat and have carried over through generations.
It's called the "The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine" by Chef John Folse. He also has a great web site where you can get recipes. You might even be able to listen to his radio show.
Every little bit of this cushaw is going to be used. I'm saving the seeds to plant, the scraps for the chickens, and the meat to cook. After grabbing all I can of the "guts" with my bare hands, I use a melon baller to scrape out all the remaining strings (that goes to the chickens too). Then just continue to cut it up.
Here is everything when the chopping is done. I know those chicks are going to be happy.
On the stove I have not one, but two big pots of cushaw chunks! Notice my coffee percolator in the back. My Bunn that makes coffee in one minute died. I replaced it with our camp coffee pot, and I am perfectly happy. Once you get the hang of it, it makes better coffee. So I'm saving over $100 on a new pot and this one doesn't have to be plugged in 24/7 to keep the water hot.
About half way there.
Here is the finished pure cushaw puree. I am going to freeze it in 2 cup portions and use for making bread, pie and soup. I have canned pumpkin (cushaw is a type of pumpkin) in the past, but new guidelines don't recommend canning pumpkin due to its density. It's impossible to be sure the interior temperature gets hot enough to kill dangerous stuff....you know botulism...whatever. Anyway...this is going to be yum. You can cook it down longer with sugar and pumpkin pie spice to make a yummy pumpkin puree to eat right away.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What to do on Saturday Night

What do you do when the weather's just perfect outside? When it's been sunny all day and cool at night? Have a camp out in the backyard!

While I helped the church with a garage sale, Byron and the girls worked around the house all day. Byron split the wood and made us a nice stack for our short winter. All of the rotten stuff and grass clippings were piled high for a Bonn fire.
Hmmmm...? Is this marshmallow burnt enough? Or do I need to burn it some more?
It was a perfect night for drawing by lantern, talking to Mama, looking at the stars, trying to spot bats (no luck), guessing why the crew boat visited the ship out back (to bring a river pilot?...Someone to the hospital?), trying to do cart wheels, playing motorboat....and....
having the bench all to yourself to contemplate......
Dirty feet and all. Then sleeping in the tent when you have a perfectly good bed a few yards away.

Cost $0

Memories Priceless

I'm convinced...The best things in life are credit free.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What could be better than an unexpected gift?

I got this in the mail.
It's addressed to me. What could it be?
Oh! A card and some kind of wrapped thingy!
And because I'm a trusting person......I opened it...and nothing blew up. Nope....It was a wonderful unexpected gift from Vee! And...it included....a handwritten note!!! Not an e-mail, not a comment....but an actual sweet written note. I love those.
Thank you Vee. I am going to enjoy the tea soon, the book mark will be marking a spot soon, ..and the note pad is already getting jotted on!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Abandoning Teenagers

I'm sorry, I just find Nebraska's safe haven law hilarious, and what a change of positions for parents. Here you are stuck with a petulant bratty teen that you are still responsible for (I know you raised 'em). No more can the teen sulk and pout. No longer can the hulking male teen leer angrily at his family members making them all feel unsafe and edgy. Uh Uh little lady, you can't hold the parent hostage to your threats and temper tantrums.

I was the youth leader at our church for 8 years. I've seen every kind of manipulative teen you can imagine...also every kind of wimpy parent. Also I've seen parents stuck between uncooperative co parents or enabling Grandparents (the worst). Besides praying that 18 gets here before the child does something to destroy the family, some parents find themselves relatively helpless against this raging mass of hormonal self-absorbed destruction.

I can just see the wide-eyed huh look in the petulant brats eyes as their parents say, "Sorry, I have to drop you off so I don't kill you." That's it they're disarmed...no more weapons...no more threats....That's it! I'm sorry. I know I am cruel and heartless...hee hee...for thinking this is funny. But there are some teens that I just wish their parents could have done that too them. The only problem is, those teens probably wouldn't be the one's dropped off. They're that way usually because they have learned to manipulate their over indulgent loving parent.

Never would I drop off one of my girls, petulant or not. I'd just give them one of my looks and say, "That's what tail whippins' are for." They might roll their eyes, but they'd straighten up. Blame it on my Suuthin' upbringin'.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spring in September?- Around the House and Gardens

While checking on the chickens last night I noticed that my pear tree is blooming! In September no less. I'm guessing It's attempting a last ditch effort to reproduce after losing all it's fruit in the storms. September or April it's blossoms are still smell and look beautiful.

A view of the herb wheel garden. Some of this oregano is going into my Greek pork pitas with cucumber yogurt sauce tonight. The purple flowers in the front are gomphrena. One of my favorite flowers. The "strawberry fields" variety of gomphrena is also very beautiful, except lankier. They really take the heat.
This trumpet playing frog was given to my husband by a friend. Isn't it cute? My husband is one of the worlds most awsomest jazz trumpet players.
Also this morning we had a yard full of ibises snatching up the early morning bugs. They let me get pretty close before skedaddling.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

They Wouldn't Consider Living Any Other Way

I'll never forget what my Grandfather said when I pestered him to tell me, "What was it like growing up during the depression?" He replied, "Oh, things didn't change to much for us. Country people just kept living like they always did." It reminds me of a line in an Alabama song, "Somebody told us Wall Street fell, but we was so poor we couldn't tell." (Song of the South)

I was really disappointed that he didn't have any storeys of starvation and woe. No tales of furniture thrown out on the street as my great grandfather had to sell apples on a corner to scrape together enough cash to buy food for the youngsters. My Grandmother did love to tell me how, "It was just a different way of living." You gardened, raised animals, canned, mended, repaired,...basically they were self-sufficient and wouldn't have considered living any other way.

There were very few things that they bought from outside sources. Of course, as they grew older they too adapted to the more modern way of life. Amazingly enough here we are turning back to take a look at how they lived their lives. We are rediscovering what it means to be self-sufficient. In my case I am attempting to become mostly self-sufficient.

Sometimes I wish my Grandfather were here so I could ask him what he thought about all this. My Grandfather and I had many heated discussions as he was a Democrat and I decided at the age of eight I was a Reagan Republican. Here we have a whole generation where most of us wouldn't know the first thing about caring for ourselves if suddenly food couldn't be delivered to the store. In our case after Katrina we have experienced this. What if the military wasn't there to air drop MRE's and cases of water?

I don't begin to profess I know how we lost all the skills our grandparents took for granted, but I do have some suspicions. We are human and we are all susceptible if not careful to the temptations of humanity- greed, pride, laziness. The idea of something for nothing has always appealed to the basest side of human nature. No other generation has been advertised to like ours. Especially by the credit industry.

Credit companies repeated a lie often enough that now it is believed. I know many really good people who do not believe that life can be lived without debt. I myself have given into that philosophy in the past. Now I know it is possible. We are doing it. At first it was a great trial, but now we are getting the hang of it and it has become habit. If you don't have the money, you do without until you do. This is NOT always easy. Especially in our society of "have now pay later". Pay you do and then some.

We know the Bible says the borrower is a slave to the lender. This is just a basic fact. If you owe someone, they dictate what you must do with your money and time without even telling you. Debt is the greatest inhibitor of self-sufficient living. Debt in my opinion is also the greatest robber of peace.

Maybe I could rewrite the line in that Alabama song, "Somebody told us Wall Street fell, but we weren't in debt so we couldn't tell."

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm Addicted

I'm addicted for now I think. This really cool little stack of pattern cards has me knitting up a bundle of useless little patterned squares. I'll most likely use them as dish rags (The stand in for anything I don't know what to do with!). Is anyone else learning to knit besides me and can't figure out what to do with all that practice work?

I bought this box of knit pattern cards when we were evacuated to Bessemer, Alabama from Anthropologie. Anthropologie is one of those stores that I derive immense inspiration from, but would never spend that kind of money on anything they sell. But this little box had the price printed right on the carton and so the price couldn't be jacked up...so I just had to have it.

It's such a challenge to get out each little card and figure out the stitches and steps to create my somewhat crooked swatches. I think I might tackle something useful one day. In the meantime I find knitting crooked little butterflies very relaxing.

Lace Knitting to go- by Andrea Tung. The patterns are printed on bi-fold cards that have a picture on the front of the finished pattern and the instructions on the inside and back. They are marked 1 to 4 for skill level. They are so easy to throw into a bag and go. (I knit while waiting for the bus, for music lessons to be over with, for the ferry...)
Here's a little white swatch I did. You really can't tell in the picture, but it is a butterfly pattern. I would like to do my two youngest button up sweaters in this pattern. Very sweet.
This hot pink swatch is a feather pattern. Complicated and fun.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Aren't Eggs Beautiful?

I think eggs are serenely lovely.
I couldn't decide which picture I like best so I posted all.

My chickens are giving us 15 to 20 eggs a day. My girls sell them for $3.00 a dozen to friends and family. This pays for the feed and gives the girls a little spending money. I am letting them handle the "business" end of this and they are having a blast.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Green in the Garden

The temperatures have dropped! We have a cool front. It was actually in the 60's last night. Downright cool weather for us! The lower temperatures are giving my garden a need break and all of the greens are loving it.
Purple Hull pea blossom peeking from behind a leaf. See the battered leaves from the storm? The plants are putting out new leaves now. I'm so proud of them for surviving!!!
My cabbages have sprouted! Here is a pretty little cabbage sprout.
Heirloom curly mustard. Greens are some of the yummiest and easiest things to grow in a garden. You can find my recipe here. They make a wonderful side dish, or with a pan of cornbread, they can be the main star. My husband especially likes them with pork chops.
Here are the heirloom Georgia Collards. The more types of greens you grow the better your greens are!
Chives and Henderson Bush Lima beans. The Lima's have blossomed and are forming pods.
A wonderful surprise. I found a pumpkin on my heirloom french pumpkin vine that I thought hadn't produced! How did I miss that?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Decorating With What You Love

I never believed there were any hard fast rules to decorating. Trends come and go, but certainly if you decorate with what speaks to you you'll never be stuck with three dozen resin molded lamps and fifty million Fleur De Li's. Personally I shun tawdry trendy icons that mass producers stick on everything from kitchen towels to measuring spoons in hopes of getting on the bandwagon while they are hot. Decorating with only that which you love eliminates the need to refit your house with the latest. You never want to get rid of what you love.

Everyone's style is different from minimalist to ultra feminine and everything in between. There are certain things that are pleasing to me and create a happy peaceful vignette for me to look at. First you must identify what you love to look at. Personally I love nature, books (new and vintage), everyday items from the 40's to the 70's, vintage Pyrex, milkware, and magazines.

Decorating my home has been a fifteen year process. Byron and I slept on mattresses on a metal frame with old doors as a headboard for years until I found the perfect bedroom set. I still have the same sofa I bought the first year Byron and I were married, and I still love it. Simply because I will only buy that which I love. We made do with, less than what I wanted, hand me downs until we could afford some items.
Here is a vignette near my front door. I love the portrait propped there. It's interesting to do something unexpected here and there.
Items from nature have the most magnificent colors. I love to collect something from nature where ever I go. The large clam shell is from Newport, the small clam shell in the back is from Mississippi's Percey Quin state park lake, the other shell is from a Florida beach. The rock is from Colorado. I love the patina on the gourd in the back. It was the first puny little birdhouse gourd I had ever grown.
Dried burgundy and green okra have the richest color and look wonderful together. I love how the spines of dried okra split open to create cream stripes along the edges. I am going to make a fall wreath from dried okra pods my sister grew in her garden. The turtle shell was saved from one my brother in law gave to my mother in law to make a turtle soup.
This pickup truck and book were my husband's when he was little. It doesn't mind hauling a few votives for me.
Seleste discovered this needle packet and thread in a sewing kit my Mother In Law gave to her. I just love the looks of domestic bliss on the ladies faces as they sew.
I bought the bird cross stitch for cents at Goodwill. I love anything with animals on it. The little doggy was Byron's when he was small. The angel dreaming in the window reminds me of myself. I just get a kick out of the puppeteer puppy stone. These are Carruth Studios stones. I love them.
Sometimes living in a small house forces you to be creative with storage and decor. I like to sew, knit, cross stitch and crochet. Except, I do not have an extra room in my 1,680 square foot home to put all my supplies for my creative urges. These pretty boxes serve the purpose. When stacked, they are neat and orderly and hide a multitude of clutter.

Sewing machine, threads, tools, material and patterns are all hidden inside. The old yellow salesman sample bag hides my cross stitches. My yarns are pretty enough to be seen and I like them to be close at hand for when I feel like doing a few stitches. (By the way, the green dresser in the back has served as a console and storage for years. I bought is for a few dollars at Goodwill.)
Matisse is one of my favorite artists. I love the colors he uses and the fact that everything he does feels happy and optimistic. My sister bought me this print when she went to New York. The glittered feathers in milkware lamp bases make a grand fanfare for the print. The little bird is perched in a place fit for a Pharaoh.
I've had this classical lady bust for what seems like forever and I still love to look at her. She is forever beautiful, and deserving of the thick wreath of dried oak leaves. I wore the oak leaves in my hair when I went to a masquerade party as a woodland fairy. The framed postcards are a tribute to National Parks of which I am a huge fan. Again there's a bird.
Here is my cookbook nook. It also houses the majority of my vintage pyrex bowl collection. They serve double duty. I use them daily and also they are beautiful. The cross stitch in the back is my first one.
Here's a little snatch of my large bookshelves. My books are interspersed with photos of my lovely family and figures of animals.