Friday, October 31, 2008

A Peck of Tomatoes

At least I think it was a peck, it certainly wasn’t a bushel – I’ve dealt with bushels of tomatoes before and this was a smaller basket than that. I remember back in the day when my kids were little going to the “you pick it farm” and picking bushels of tomatoes to can. My son John was little and was wandering around the field – there was a muddy place and he wandered into it and got stuck. What a mess! One of my friends went into the mud and rescued him and his shoe that came off when she pulled him out. Hey, Callie, are you reading this blog? Ahh, memories.

Anyway, the peck of tomatoes. They certainly weren’t grown in my own yard – despite planting 7 tomato plants this spring. My meager crop was two medium tomatoes and two cherry tomatoes. You see the wildlife has discovered our yard. I think I’ve told you about the juvenile delinquent deer that hang out in our yard but we also have other marauders – I’ve seen raccoons, I see the squirrels carry off apples and I am sure they did that with the tomatoes too, and then there are the chipmunks. All of them were very well fed off of my garden this year. Nice of me to plant it for them wasn’t it. Soo, I went to the farmer’s market every Friday and last Friday I bought my peck of tomatoes. We’ve had a freeze here so I wasn’t hopeful of getting any but I did and for a good price too – as long as I was willing to deal with imperfect and “have to use Now” tomatoes. I’m experienced at using stuff that isn’t perfect. We grow apples and prefer not to use very much insecticide but that’s another blog post. By the way, you can cut off the bad parts of both tomatoes and apples and the rest is good. Don’t try this with citrus fruits though, they are bad through and through when one part is bad.

I thought I was getting enough tomatoes for a batch of salsa but I was wrong. I had enough tomatoes for salsa and then some. So I went searching and found a tomato soup recipe on the internet. I had had some wonderful homemade tomato soup when we visited RyKy and so I was looking for something similar. Should have written down the recipe when I was there but I didn’t.

The soup involved cooking 4 cups of chopped tomatoes, a slice of onion, 4 cloves, and 2 cups of chicken broth for about 20 minutes. Then the mixture is run through a food mill or in my case my handy dandy food presser outer. I have no idea what it’s called but it works like a charm, and I got it for a song at a garage sale. (Don’t you just hate it when people tell you all about the wonderful things they got for a song at a garage sale?) I’ve used it for many, many years and discovered that I have a couple of bowls that fit exactly underneath it. It’s one of the precious items in my kitchen. I’m easily charmed I guess. Oh, by the way, throw away the stuff left behind after you've pressed all the good stuff through.

After the tomato mixture is pressed out or milled or whatever, you melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan you used for the tomatoes and then mix 2 tablespoons of flour into it. This is called a roux. Cook the roux for a few minutes until it turns medium brown and then whisk a little of the tomato into it so that it doesn’t lump up. Then add all the rest of the tomato to it. Season it with salt if needed and sugar if you want. I tasted mine and it was bland, bland, bland. So I added some of our homemade curry to it. And that you’ll have to wait for another blog post to learn more about too.

I served it to the Compadre and asked him what he thought about it. I had already decided that I liked it. A lot. Well, the Compadre hesitated, I’ve been married long enough to be able to see the wheels turning in his head, he was thinking about a way to gently, diplomatically, say what he needed to say. I preempted him and said “you don’t really like it do you”? He agreed. Proof that the Compadre doesn’t always like what I make. So we agreed that I would eat the double batch of soup that I really liked for my lunches and he would eat something else for his lunches. I think that he just expected Campbell’s tomato soup when he sat down. This was soup with tomato in it but it also had that spicy taste and the chicken broth in it. He knows that one should always keep the cook happy if one wants her to keep cooking so he was very, very careful about what he said J. I was in a group recently and one of the women said that she doesn’t cook anymore because her husband always complains and doesn’t like anything that she makes. Foolish man. The Compadre is much wiser than him. Abe Lincoln said “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”.

The rest of the tomatoes went into salsa. I got this recipe from Bernie, one of the other cook manager’s at the school district where I worked. I’ve used this recipe for years and we love it. I always have trouble judging how hot to make it. The recipe calls for 2 cups of hot peppers!! That, I know is too much, but peppers vary in how hot they are and so this time I had the Compadre taste one of my peppers and he decided that they weren’t too terribly hot. Big mistake. His definition of hot and mine are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. I was hoping to aim for the middle. Nope. I put in 1 cup of these peppers (the wildlife left these alone in garden – I wonder why?) And I included the seeds. Wow! We’ve got fiery salsa here. But I know people who like it that way so it won’t get wasted – I just won’t eat any of it!


9 cups chopped tomatoes (Roma’s work best but use whatever you have)

1 large onion, chopped (1 cup or more)

1 T. of salt (or to taste)

1 cup vinegar

4 cloves of garlic

4 cups chopped bell pepper

2 cups hot pepper (use your judgment here!!)

¼ cup sugar (I never add this)

1 can tomato paste

Cook everything but the sugar and tomato paste until the peppers and onion look slightly done. Add the tomato paste and the sugar if desired and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste it to see if it needs more cooking or sugar or salt. Then process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Makes 7-8 pints. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Today we spent a wonderful fall day watching the Michigan Tech rowing team (with my nephew Peter) as they competed on the Mississippi river. It was an education for me - I've never seen this sport before and we were able to get up close and personal. We hung out with the team afterward and watched them put away the very, very long boats and also all the chili that my sister Mary brought for the team to eat! Peter is the 3rd one from the back on this boat. They won 3rd place in their race and Peter (and all the guys rowing with him) got a medal. Cool. Sure looks like a lot of work! They did look like they all had fun though.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CiD Hanscom at Open Knitting

I try to make it to open knitting at Double Ewe on Friday afternoons whenever I can. Last Friday I was sooo glad that I was able to go – Kelly e-mailed me to tell me that CiD Hanscom, the designer of Felted Rudy and many other cool patterns was bringing her trunk show and would stay and knit with us for a while. Squeee! Having knit Felted Rudy I was so impressed with her pattern writing skills and I was glad that I’d be able to meet her and talk to her. (You have to understand that I’m really shy about meeting new people so this is a measure of how much I wanted to meet her.) I did have a few worries that she’d be all stuck up – you know – being a famous designer and all, but she was gracious and funny and nice of course! She brought in samples of all her fabulous cleverly designed critters and she also has some accessories and bags too. I asked her about the design process and she told me she’s only been knitting for four years and she just wings it. She did design crochet patterns before she started knitting and she said that helps. Apparently crochet people don’t buy patterns like knitting people do. So now we knitters get the benefit of her skills! She has a background in graphic design and obviously has great ability to think in 3-D. She also said that her patterns are written just the way that you would knit the pattern and not necessarily like someone who has been knitting (and following patterns) would do it. After all she’s only been knitting for four years. Her advice about using her patterns is to just trust the pattern and keep going, it will work out. I found that out myself when knitting Rudy. There were a couple of places that didn’t seem intuitive to me but I just blindly followed and it all worked in the end.

CiD also did an impromptu demo of how to wear a scarf. She was wearing a scarf that she designed and showed us several ways to wear it. Of course now I want to make a long scarf for me. I’m thinking that I could wear it around the house and look glamorous and all (while wearing my sweats) and also keep the heat lower during the winter. Ha! How’s that for justification of knitting! As if I need any excuses to knit (and do all the other crafts that I do).

I love Cid's patterns. I've made two of them so far - the Change your Socks Purse and Felted Rudy. I'm going to make the mouse next (Thora Lee). Cid told me about a gal that made Thora Lee, named him Luke and went on a trip around the world. She has a blog that tells of Luke's adventures. I'm not going to take my mouse (whatever I name it) on a trip around the world but I'll sure enjoy making it! And then I want to make the wristers pattern and the snowman and......

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Scooter Days are Numbered

I rode my scooter to Double Ewe today to drop off Felted Rudy so he could entice more people to sign up for the class I’m teaching. 50 degrees when I went there and 52 when I got home. Brrr. Now that wouldn’t be a problem if I was bicycling but when I’m just sitting and letting the scooter do all the work – well it gets pretty cold with that 50 degree wind in your face. Soon it’ll be time to store the scooter for the winter. Sigh. I’ve always liked spring the best. Fall always seems like everything is dying and winter is just around the corner. Now that I don’t have a school year job I thought that Fall would be no problem. Not. Don’t get me wrong. I love Minnesota and I’ll find joy in the winter but gosh – summer could have stayed around a little longer.

One of life’s little pleasures is new socks. Hand cranked new socks. I made these last Saturday when I demonstrated at the 5R Alpaca farm. It’s a good thing that I get together with other people and use my CSM (Circular Sock Machine) because I never seem to get around to it at home. You’d think that with all the sock yarn that I’ve accumulated that I would be cranking all the time! And you’d think that I would have used some of that stash to make these socks wouldn’t you. Oh, no. I “needed” alpaca sock yarn to make socks at a demo on an alpaca farm and since I couldn’t remember (or count on finding) if I had alpaca sock yarn already I had to buy some new. One good thing – they never made it to the stash – here they are as socks and good warm ones too. They kept my feet warm during that cold scooter ride.

Too bad the rest of me didn’t stay warm too! Might have to invest in some wind pants. I did really enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a warm bath when I got home, both things that you just don’t do in the summer. I guess Fall and Winter will be all right.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Felted Rudy

I really do knit. It seems like a long time since I've finished anything and this felt good. Hee, hee.

Felted Rudy by CiD Hanscom is a great pattern for a wonderfully whimsical felted red nosed reindeer. I followed the pattern exactly (well not the same yarn but you know) and there were a couple of times that I blindly followed and by golly it all worked out! He's so cute that the Compadre even commented on his cuteness. The pattern is available at Double Ewe also.
Made with about a half skein of brown Nature Spun Worsted and small amounts of black, tan and an even smaller amount of red. Fun and fast.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Re entry

I’ve been pondering a blog post in my mind for a few days. Of course pondering it doesn’t get it written. I came back from my vacation out east with an intestinal bug. That started me sitting in the easy chair reading books. Then I listened to the news and watched a little of the presidential debate. I continued to sit in my easy chair and enjoy the escape of reading one western romance after another. Nothing like wranglers and outlaws and rustlers to dim the reality of economic disaster and the feeling that whichever yayhoo that we elect has less idea than I do of what to do about it. Oh, that’s right – I’m in denial. Forget I said that. But I thought of an analogy. Back when I was in management I occasionally had the job of hiring someone. So I’m imagining that I’m hiring a new president of our country and the debate was the interview. Wait – don’t we have any more applicants to interview?? You mean I have to pick one of those two? Better start saying our prayers because all we have to rely on is the Lord.

By the way if you’re into romance books, Jodi Thomas writes a well crafted one. No drivel here. I’ve been working my way through all that the library has to offer that she’s written. Either you are in wild west Texas or in modern Texas. Either way there are plenty of evildoers to keep the pages turning until true love wins out. Pure escapism. I really do read heavier stuff sometimes but this just seems to be filling the need right now :-)

To distract you further. Here are some cute baby pictures.

We stayed with RyKy on the way out and let me tell you I have great respect for mothers of twins. These two were perpetual motion machines and this is the best picture I got - I just wasn't fast enough!

We stayed with baby boy parrott on the way back but I was a bad blogger and didn't remember to take any pictures. Maybe my sister will send me some?

And of course pictures of the cutest grandbaby in the world!! She's 9 months old now and crawling all over and pulling herself up on anything she can reach. We stayed with Amy and Abigail for a week in a timeshare in the Poconos. We saw Eric for only a few days but it was so nice to spend time with them. My sister graciously did all the driving and shared her timeshare with us.

Amy bought her this hat and she actually left it on her head!
How cute huh?

This video is of Abigail "dancing" to the sound that her toy makes.