Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A white anomaly

I have seen fat black squirrels in France, pesty gray squirrels all over the U.K. and U.S.A, and I know I have seen beautiful red squirrels somewhere in the world, but cant for the life of me remember where. Today I saw a pure white, pristinely clean squirrel in my front yard. I tried to take a picture of it, so Ill see how it comes out tonight, but I dont hold out much hope as I was in the kitchen. I hate squirrels, they are rodents, pests that eat my bird food no matter what I put it in, and annoy my dogs. But since I havent yet seen fit to clean the leaves in my yard, they are all over the place collecting nuts. Im assuming this thing was an albino but it sure did have a long and high jump, so maybe it was a super squirrel...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Easiest thanksgiving take along

Well, predictably enough, my attempt at practicing relaxation didnt go accord to plan yesterday. But, on the positive side, I did manage to clean my kitchen so that it was spotless!

Today is going to be a more successful day at relaxation, since Im worn out from yesterday! I made walnut and cinnamon English muffins for breakfast, delicious with honey. I went to the grocery store and now Im going to sit down whilst my bagels go through their first proofing.

I have a little bone to pick with the permanent farmers market on old 7. I have been buying my dried goods there for some time, such as brown rice, 12-grain, bulgur wheat and such. I have a terrible infestation of moths and its only in those items. Or at least I thought it was. So I ordered some 10-grain online, yesterday I threw everything away and today I bought all new tuperware and washed it thoroughly. I poured my cornmeal (not bought at the farmers market but stored in the same cupboard) into the new tub and wasnt sure, but thought there were little black specks in there. hmmmm. Went to pour the Rye flour (also from the supermarket) into its new tub and low and behold, definite black spots and moths. ugh. So I then had to throw both of those away and re-wash the tuperwares. Luckily bagels only require bread flour, which I know is good since I just opened a new packet (from the supermarket), but I have people that want bread so I have to go back to the store to replenish my cornmeal and rye flour stocks. ugh. I cant bare going to the store twice in one week. Thats why I make lists. Anyways, so this morning when I went to the farmers market, dont worry, only for vegetables, I told the staff there that I believed that they had moths in their dried goods because I had some sealed ziplock bags that contained goods bought at their store and they had moths in them, well she said, I wouldnt be surprised, its hard to keep them out of there. ugh. They know they have moths yet they do nothing about it. Disgusting. Now Im not one to say bad things about the farmers market, because I tend to love it, but that is disgusting behaviour. I wish the owner had been there. Hopefully I am now moth free as I have thrown everything away and bought new containers that I have washed and have stopped buying dried goods there. Fingers crossed eh.

On a more positive note (as I hate to finish on a downer) I made myself the best dinner ever yesterday! I was just sad I got full so quickly and couldnt have seconds! Dont get mad at me, I used a packet mix of something, but it was so easy and so tasty, its hard in these busy holiday times, justifying making it yourself (says she who is currently waiting on bagel dough!).

Butternut squash stuffing bake

1 medium butternut squash, peeled (potato peeler works great) and cubed (approximately 1 cm cubes)
1 lg bag frozen spinach (again, not me to go for the convenient option but is clean and pre-chopped), defrosted but undrained
2 packets low-sodium stuffing (butter is optional)
orange juice
lemon juice
black pepper

Place butternut squash cubes in your chosen baking dish (chose a large, deep one), toss squash in a few glugs of vegetable/canola oil and pour in some orange juice. Bake at 400 F for about 15-20 minutes.
In the mean time mix up the second packet of stuffing (I used the butter, but I dont really have fat in my diet so figured it was ok).
Remove from oven and mix with one packet of stuffing, the spinach, a few splashes of lemon juice and a sprinkling of black pepper in a large mixing bowl. I wouldnt add salt, the stuffing has lots in it.
Squish mix back into baking dish. Top with pre-prepared stuffing.
Bake at 400F until crusty on top and steaming on the inside.

I cooked mine for 20 minutes on the second bake and it was warm enough to eat if you were starvin marvin (which of course, I was), but I would probably bake for 30-40 minutes to get it piping hot, especially if you are taking it to someone else's house.

There are lots of fun things you can do with this should you have the inclination. You could add fresh cranberries to the mix, but my wonderful husband refuses to eat cranberries. You could make your own stuffing and add chopped walnuts or other favourite dried fruits. One thing I might do thursday (as this is what I am taking to family potluck thanksgiving) is pre-cook some breakfast sausage and mix it in also, give it some kick. A chopped sautéed onion would be yummy in there or your favourite winter squash. The possibilities for an easy dinner or accompaniment, are endless!

This year I give thanks for my wonderful, caring, generous, hardworking, selfless, and most importantly very handsome husband!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The plan...

The plan for today is to have a nice relaxing saturday in, on my own; well, if you dont count Tux and Mojo. Its a silly way to work my weekend really since its warm and dry today, but might rain tomorrow and will be a littler chillier. Even though its reasonably warm out, its all grey and overcast and I just feel like staying in. So we will see how much relaxing I actually do!

It has started out well, although this seems to be a new trend of mine: wake up early and knit until Danny gets up. Its a nice time to chill and relax on my own with only the noise of boisterously playing dogs.

Id like to do a little inside scrubbing, but am also not sure I can be bothered, so we shall see!

I did want to tell you my favourite new morning drink though. I was telling my friend about it yesterday and she asked if I had put it on my blog, and I realised that I hadnt yet shared it. This drink is amazing on the morning taste buds!

Spritely Apple Juice

1 apple, cored and chopped
Fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (I use about 1/2 to 1 tbs, but I really like ginger!)
1/3 to 1/2 C Cranberries (Im using fresh cranberries since its that time of year, but frozen ones will be fine)
Orange juice
Pomegranate juice (I think POM is the best, even though its the most expensive!)

Blend and add some cold water until a nice consistency is reached. Sip through a fun coloured straw (this part is essential!).

I think the only way you could make this better for you is if you found a way to include mint and blueberries! But lets not try and meld too many flavours into one drink!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Why do they do it?

Why do dogs roll in poo?

We were out for a perfectly nice walk this afternoon in the windy cold weather. Thankfully I saw the dead deer before the dogs and averted a rolling in dead animal situation. But apparently I was not paying enough attention as we had a rolling in poo situation instead. Thankfully Danny was able to don the rubber gloves and clean it up for me!

Poo poo poo!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday seemed to be no more relaxing!

Why do I do it to myself! Busy busy busy, all of the time!

Sunday actually began rather slowly and with lots of relaxing, so perhaps I just went through my day backwards! I woke early and sat knitting until Danny woke up. Then I went into town and walked the dogs whilst Danny went to his photo shoot. He was a lot longer than I had anticipated and it seemed a lot warmer than 64F, so Tux had some problems. He overheated and we had to go down into the woods for some shade and to rest. We hustled in Home Depot and ate a delicious salad at Newks, as I was about to bite someone's head off if I didnt get some food, asap!

My afternoon consisted of bread baking, two batches of ginger apple marmalade, finishing the small flower bed that now lines our beautiful new deck and mopping the kitchen floor. Phew! No rest for the wicked eh! I then boiled the gnocchi I so lovingly made yesterday and when I poured them out into the colander to drain, they all mushed together into one big pile of slops! So I wont be sharing that recipe until I have tried again and got little gnocchi's instead of a big heap of ickiness that got washed down the drain. I quickly boiled some spaghetti and we had that instead for our dinner! I always forget how incredible my marinara sauce is! Why did I only make 8 quarts! Its going to be harsh late spring when there is no marinara left in the pantry! Must remember to make two lots next year!

We enjoyed the cool evening air of our lovely new and expanded deck, then I went to bed, unsurprisingly exhausted!

Maybe Ill rest in my next life!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What a fun packed saturday!

Even I cannot sometimes believe how much I fit into one day, and its only early evening still!

Another good reason for getting up early!

My day began with an hour long phone call to my mummy whilst I ate my toast and drank my tea. I then made a second cup of tea and took it up to the end of the driveway where I cleaned up my flower bed by the road. Removed some straggly annuals, chopped up some rowdy perennials, cleared all of the leaves even though I know there is more to come and pulled up weeds. Looks much better. Then I set to planting the remainder of my new bulbs for this year. I have gone kinda light on the new bulbs this year, partly because Im kinda running out of room for bulbs ( I figure I have somewhere in the 2-3000 range hiding underneath the surface of my garden); 150 daffodils, 75 tulips (I still hate that these are annuals in the South), 24 alliums, 5 new day lilies and 3 moved from another area, 3 trout lilies (which I am intrigued about as I have never grown before), 40 spider lilies and 3 colossal blue hostas.

I then ate my lunch on my beautiful back deck, following which I had to rest my eyes from the sun and fell asleep for just a short while! Long enough to get a numb botty though!

I begun the immense task of clearing the leaves on our property. Before you say get a leaf blower, I have a leaf blower, and in places I use it. But there is something so very therapeutic about raking leaves for me, and I like getting down and dirty in my flower beds so that I can see all the new naughty weeds poking through. The weeds are reasonably thin thanks to my July blitz and thick layer of mulch, so that was a pleasant surprise. I moved two new baby rose of sharon hibiscus that were growing in odd places and gave them some prime real-estate. I obviously did not clear all of the leaves but I can see the ground in several flower beds so that makes me happy! Unlike most (my husband being one of them), I really like clearing leaves. I have to be careful when I do it though, do it too early and you will have to do it many many times over. Do it too late and the many bulbs are already popping up and you end up being unable not to step on some and squish them. Leave it even longer and the tiny snails contingency strengthens their numbers ready for the spring on-slaught. Another reason I like being out in the garden at this time of year is that the birds are migrating and swath into the trees in huge numbers, squawking all day long. Not to mention that it is just beautiful in my backyard!

Tired of being outside I began to clean the kitchen so that I could mess it up! I made short crust pastry which became the ugliest mince pies you have ever seen in your life! I roasted some root vegetables and made myself a delicious vegetable dip for my mid-morning snacks at work. If you ever think you need to just work some veggies into your diet, try this as a dipping snack - you can even dip it with carrots and sugar snaps (my current favourite snack!) to add more veggies.

Beet Vegetable Dip

2 medium beets
2 carrots
1 potato (sweet or baking)
1 bulb of garlic
1 onion
Any other winter veggies you fancy - winter squash, rutabaga/swede, parsnips ...

Wrap in foil and bake at 400F until soft and tender, about one hour. I tend to wrap the big things separately and the little things together.

Broccoli florets
Im sure any greens would be fine too, just cook til tender.

Place all of your veggies in the food processor (squeezing garlic out of skins and peeling the beets) with a glug each of olive oil, lemon juice and orange juice. Add some seasoning; this time I used italian herbs, salt and pepper but another good choice would be fresh rosemary and thyme, mint and lime or if you are so inclined you could add hot sauce. I also added two large pinches of cumin, I think this is essential to deepen the flavours.

This is the crucial point in this dip... taste! I dipped with chips but I think carrots or veggie sticks would be awesome too. Then adjust whatever you need to your liking. I like lots of black pepper, so I added more. Its delicious warm but great cold too, an awesome snack to take to work or to a party with some pita chips.

So where were we, back to what else I did with my day. Since I still have lots of jacket (baked) potatoes left over from fake bonfire night, I made some gnocchi. First time ever, and I have to say, I was a little nervous but it was so stinking easy! I havent tasted it yet, so Im not going to give you the recipe, but when I eat it later and its delicious, I will post the altered Epicurious recipe.

While shaping my mince pies, I talked to Danny's grandmother on the phone, but no, I do not think this is why they are so ugly. I think I just got lazy and wanted to eat the mince meat. Thankfully there were a few teaspoons too many in the jar, which of course needed to go into the dishwasher so I had to eat them!

Now that I have taste tested my veggie dip, eaten the left over mince meat in the jar, and checked a couple of the mince pies once they came out of the oven, Im not sure Im going to be able to eat dinner when Danny gets home! Its late anyways, maybe I can just make him some soup! Good thing you can freeze gnocchi!

Anyways, that's what I did with my saturday. I wonder what sunday has install! I guess Ill need some sleep to recover!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Thank goodness its friday!

We had a bonfire wednesday to make up for not having one last week, since someone had to go and get sick. It was a small crowd but we had some good food and nice conversation. Danny put fire crackers in the Guys head, as usual, and it still took us by surprise, as usual! I made cheesey bread, rosemary garlic focaccia, lentil stew and cheese broccoli potato soup.

The fire was still smouldering thursday evening and we had confused the time that Thacker Mountain Radio started. Since we were not going to make it to town in time we got the fire going again and sat outside listening to the radio show which had lots of Bluegrass, and I do love Bluegrass!

Now its friday night, Ive had a lovely walk with the dogs, Danny is setting up tents on campus for the game tomorrow and Im catching up on some tv and knitting! Awesome friday night! I have got a fun packed weekend of working in the yard, clearing leaves and tidying up, jam making and mince pies!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I have lost it!

My sense of smell that is! Last night I spread Vicks Vapour Rub on my nose, under my nose and probably in my nose. Then I just laid there waiting, staring up at Danny, who just stared back. Then I realised that I smelt nothing, nothing at all. I felt the tingly feeling you get from the menthol but did not smell a thing!

Its been a hard hard day. I laid on the couch this morning and read Southern Living October and November editions. I did have to get up to pee, make tea, get chips and salsa and some water. That was hard work. I then set down to attempt to finish some craft projects I have on the go. Not finished anything yet but I figure I can get a long way by friday evening, as I have decided I will at least lie down until saturday morning, what I do at the weekend has yet to be seen! Ive got leaves to clear and bulbs to plant, but also see the benefits of getting better first!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lauren is... in bed!

The answer to "Where is Lauren?" is... she is in bed.

So my doctor has told me I am really really ill and I must stay in bed for a few days so unfortunately the party is post-poned til next week and I am subjected to Danny's cooking. oh dear. Normal white blood cell count is 6. 10 is considered elevated. Mine is 12! What is funny is that I feel ten times better than I did monday and tuesday! I had a shot of something and am taking antibiotics and will be in bed if anyone wants me!

Where's Lauren!?!

In England its called "Where's Wally?"; in American its called "Where's Waldo?" Which ever country you live in, I feel permanently displaced at the moment.

Having gotten back from the two week Mt St Helens trip we vowed not to go anywhere else this year. Yeah right. Since I had to graciously leave my job at Ole Miss and accept a job a the University of Tennesse, I had to go to Knoxville to go through orientation. Sunday I had breakfast at the Bottletree with my lovely husband, walked my beautiful dogs on a lovely autumn day then sat in the back of a car for 7 hours as I was driven to Knoxville. Monday morning I woke up hot, very very hot, walking around in just a shirt despite the fact that it was only about 40F out. Started to get a sore throat, then a blocked nose and now here I sit, back at home, possibly with Strep Throat. Great. I feel much much better today but still am really really sick, that just gives you an idea of how bad monday night was for me!

Since we are having a bonfire party (as we do every year) thursday, November 5th, I am going to the doctors here in a minute to find out if I am still contagious, coz if I am, we are going to have to cancel the party as it is rather irresponsible to knowingly infect your friends and family. Ill let you know what I have got and if I am still contagious or not! Fingers crossed its just a chest infection!