Thursday, January 30, 2020

Not All Flour is Created Equal, Following Instructions, & Twisted Baking

Here are more kitchen adventures, as must be obvious by the title. My partner’s renewed culinary fervor provides various informative results. For example, his repeated baking of an old (delicious) Alton Brown ‘very basic’ bread recipe illustrates a certain flour as superior to all others we’ve purchased, yielding perfection through and through.

I took it upon myself to read the packaging notes. One never knows what one might glean. These companies want to sell their product and often share supposed insider claims, recipes, and whatnot. This manufacturer advertises a consistent protein level lacking in other brands. I wonder… maybe that’s the difference.

Then I discovered a recipe for Tuscan style herbed bread listed on the back. Yum. And easy, by the look.

Never having baked loaves outside of a dedicated machine, I decided to have a go. My fresh made bagels, after all, turned out well in past. And those require multiple steps beyond what this demanded.

My Tuscan style loaf turned out awesome. I even divided the raw dough into three strips and braided them (hence, ‘twisted’ baking – sorry – heh…). Warm and dipped in herbed olive oil, the slices taste delicious as anything we’ve enjoyed dining out.
Do you enjoy Italian seasonings? What's your favorite use for them?


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Whimsy in the Kitchen

We are not the type to entertain guests. But I still find butter/cheese/jam spreaders handy. The set received as part of a wedding gift are fading after all these years, though still useful, so I decided to treat myself to more if found at a reasonable price.

My search started with the name inscribed on the stainless steel blades – Boston Warehouse. From there I ended up on evil Amazon, which indeed offered something cute for a good price. It’s a shame they’re so convenient over brick and mortor stores, causing locals to struggle, yet that same day shipping (and sometimes delivery!) is compelling.

Anyway, below is what I purchased. They match our silly refrigerator magnet, the clean an dirty opposites presented in a mythical if primary colored way. I'll post that link later if I can find it.
These are hand painted, or so it's claimed.
Do you like the unicorn myth? What about topping spreaders, do you consider them a waste of space or useful?


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Act Your Age

Twice today our geriatric kitty showed me that she doesn’t understand the concept of aging. This morning Jezebel took a running leap for the sofa arm and landed belly first across it. The little brat scrabbled up, unhurt, and trotted across the cushions.

Me, a brat? Naw...

Fast forward to early afternoon. I went downstairs to use our NordicTrack. Five minutes into the planned twenty, I saw Jezebel sniffing around the table legs supporting my laptop. Without fanfare she leapt for the top and, again, didn’t stick the landing.

Watching her fall (again unhurt and unfazed, thank heaven) upset me to the point I stopped exercising, picked her up, and cuddled her in a nearby chair for several minutes. Perhaps next time I’ll close the cellar door behind me.

Meanwhile, Sandee of Comedy Plus shared some comical quips today. Ironically, my favorite regards aging. Check out her Happy Tuesday post if you want a chuckle.

How many times did you hear “Act your age” as a child? How many parents say such a thing these days, do you think?


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Eating My Greens

Attempting a healthier diet, my husband and I are eating more fruits and vegetables. As for the latter, having devoured a serving of broccoli and hummus he will often say, “There. I got my greens in for today.”

Blueberries, as it turns out, also fit under that color category. My discovery followed inspection of a misshapen berry. Digging into its bulbous protrusion, I discovered jade flesh.

That didn’t seem right. I mean, come on, they’re blueberries, for crying out loud.

But rather than tossing that fruit, I broke into another. Well, they matched, both tasting sweet and fresh. So the indigo is only skin deep. Go figure.
Very tasty with Greek yogurt!
Broccoli, on the other hand, provided a different surprise. It’s the florets folks generally covet. Those can be purchased with trimmed stems, but of course we go for the cheaper bunches, which lead to my husband’s clever discovery.

On a whim one afternoon he shaved off a stalk’s dry outer surface and took a taste. Surprise! We found mutual appreciation of those tender innards, much juicier than the flowery tops calling for more hummus.

It takes extra time removing the woody outsides, but we don’t mind. The payoff is worth a few minutes, especially since we often chat in the meantime. Or, with our open floor plan, I can stand at the kitchen island behind him on the couch, together enjoying some digital recording or other. Besides, I enjoy wielding our quality Wusthof chef’s knife.

All those trimmings (right) yielded a small but tasty harvest.
 Has a hidden fact about familiar fruits or vegetables ever surprised you? Is it time we try growing broccoli this summer for the stems?


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Dumb Luck, ‘Duh’ Moments, & a Few Food Related Tips

Following my health examination yesterday I discovered that I presented the wrong insurance card. The new card was in my wallet the whole time, just a different spot.

~shakes head~

Everything including the insurer remains the same but for the date, of course, and an agent with the hospital billing department assured me no further action is required. Whew. I sure hope she’s right and our insurance company doesn’t try to wriggle out of paying. I’m hopefully probably just being paranoid following last year’s multiple unexpected payouts.

As for food, if you’re like me you might cram something down for breakfast without even bothering to sit. The faster I can eat and move on with my day the happier I often am.

That said, peanut butter is a darn near perfect food. It’s not likely to spoil, contains a fair amount of dietary fiber and protein for the amount of carbohydrates and fat, and is now available as ‘natural’, meaning there are no ingredients other than roasted peanuts and salt. This morning I ate some with a banana. If I skip a proper lunch, PB with celery is a great afternoon filler.

Another go-to favorite is 2% reduced fat cow’s milk. I find it refreshing first thing in the morning and will wash down almost anything with a glassful. My only gripe is the yucky flakes of dried milk that form after the first pour. That led to another recent ‘duh’ moment.

Just wipe off the jug’s rim before screwing the cap back on, silly. ~sigh~ If my hands are clean I don’t even bother with a cloth or paper towel, just rinsing my fingers afterward.

Are breakfast and lunch grab-and-dash meals for you? What is your favorite breakfast food?


Monday, January 20, 2020

A Good Day, January 20, 2020

Today I went for an overdue medical checkup, postponed due to unexpected medical bills and outright superstition over 2019’s trials and tribulations. Glory be, no changes were found on the cyst discovered last May in my left breast.

The doctor wants me to return in six months for an ultrasound just to be safe. My fingers are crossed, both regarding results and insurance coverage. We shall see.

Besides that good news, I spent far less time at the hospital evaluation center than expected, a nice surprise. To rectify my lack of exercise for the day I decided to walk around a local park before returning home.

After hiking unexplored trails until my feet grew sore, I sat down on a bench overseeing a duck pond. After about ten minutes I heard another vehicle approaching. The animals grew excited, honking and quacking, which I attributed to duress.

Was I ever wrong.

The car pulled over close by and the various birds ran, sometimes slipping on the water’s icier surfaces. To my amused fascination the mallards and white geese recognized a woman who distributes corn during the winter months.

I regret not having my Canon camera or iPod touch on hand for photographs. Just watching these creatures laze in the sun, drifting and dozing on the water, made me wish I could return as a suburban wild duck. The free feed would be a bonus.

If reborn and allowed the choice, what form would you take in the next life? Would you prefer to become a pampered house, wild animal, or have human sentience? And how lucky was my timing to see this once a week event?


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Things Nobody Teaches You & Other Tidbits

The older we get, my husband and I discover more and more little life improving tricks. Sometimes I call them “Duh Moments” due to how obvious they are in retrospect.

Mmm... Smell the carnations (more on this later).
For example take dental floss, of which my younger self wasted a fair amount. A few years ago I finally figured out that the ideal amount for proper teeth cleaning is just about the length of my forearm. Duh… It makes sense to get a rough measurement.

The next one was less obvious, regarding dishwasher settings. Our machine is far from new, but well advanced over what my mother used. Its option to turn off the drying cycle seemed great. Why not save electricity? Well, don’t do it, at least on a regular basis in humid Southwest Ohio. The constant moisture caused mildew buildup within that took a while for us to notice. Yuck. I now reserve that setting for rare occasions.

Don’t like drying toothpaste gunk beneath the newfangled flip-top cap? Unscrew the thing, instead. My dear man pointed that one out. Oh, and he converted this laptop to Windows 10 without incident. We didn’t have to recover a single file. Whew! His effort is much appreciated.

I, meanwhile, continue striving to exercise. Yesterday I considered getting on our NordicTrack. Then, looking around at various clutter, opted to do some tidying. I started with the kitchen before picking up things to take downstairs, especially off the hearth and mantel where I had too many tchotchkes. In case you're unfamiliar it's pronounced choch-ka(s), Yiddish for brick-a-brack (I tend to forget how regional slang tends to be). In an hour I worked up quite a sweat and felt good for neatening the downstairs a bit, as well as the main living areas.

My final tidbit is true frivolity, but also the newest idea of which I’m quite proud. Our beautiful crystal vase, a wedding gift, is way larger than I can afford to fill. While silk flowers can be nice, fresh carnations give off one of my absolute favorite fragrances. I only buy when they’re marked down, and lucked out at a $2 bunch whose petals and scent remain lovely longer than expected.

The final trick I’ll share involves flower arranging. I wanted to keep their appearance neat and stems from leaning against the glass, impossible without some sort of support (I didn’t splurge on other cut vegetation). To my pleasant surprise, a submerged shot glass fit the bill. Later, I added strands of artificial ivy, a reusable asset dressing up my fragrant display.

Surprise! The clear glass within crystal turned invisible.
But you can kind of see how it corralled the stems.
Did you know both cut and planted carnations bloom longer than nutrient gobbling roses? Do you prefer one type of flower over the other, whether in vases or gardens?


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Lady in Waiting – & – Sled Dogs in Ohio (?!)

Yesterday I buckled down, backing up all valuable data from my laptop to an external hard drive. So-called ‘cloud’ storage may be available and free; it’s not for this gal, not after witnessing inadequate bandwidth lock a frustrated writer out of his own story.

And our home connection, while speedy, does drop sometimes. If I’m writing in blissful unawareness, my husband’s howled frustration informs me. Internet addicted, anyone?

~shakes head~

Anyway, I expected my machine outfitted with Windows 10 today. My clever guy has the ability to make this latest operating system look and even behave like Windows 7 (!), which he utilizes glitch free. I was ready.


He forgot this morning and would rather wait until tomorrow. No big deal. Believe me, though, he will find this laptop ready and waiting on his desk come dawn.


Meanwhile, Thursday afternoon I walked along the Great Miami River bike path. Long before reaching the lot I heard unexpected barking, whining, and howling. Yikes! Curiosity trumped my initial wariness.

Besides, I wanted to head home.

An unobstructed view showed not some fierce pack of wild animals. Excited dogs surrounded an unusual looking trailer. I debated if they might be shelter animals treated to an outing. The older gentleman unfolding an oversized tricycle told a different story.

Contraption in hand, he greeted me passing by, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I replied, “and beautiful dogs.”

“Thank you.”

He invited my approach, welcoming me to photograph and pet them. I, however, feared intruding upon two busy younger fellows doling out water buckets.

A welcoming grin answered my shout requesting permission. He also said something reassuring, most of which the pack’s enthusiasm drowned out.

As promised, the tethered canines acted more than sociable. They danced, tails wagging, sniffing and licking my hands. I regret not having more photos to share. All eight beautiful huskies deserved individual attention.

Sorry it's blurry. ~sigh~ I wanted to show their reaction to my approach.
For that matter, I should have stuck around to watch them exercise. Odds are slim to none we’ll meet again and I couldn’t find a website for the kennel. I'd hoped to find the pups' names because I barely heard my swift introduction.

They are sooo excited to run!
Oh, well.

One of the Darkmoon Siberian Huskies imitating the logo.
Outside of televised shows, have you ever seen a portable rolling kennel? Would you have stayed, sacrificing an hour or two to witness this spectacle live?


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Technical Update – & – Tooling Around Town 2

Well, it's time to let go my stubborn hold onto Microsoft Windows 7 as the company no longer provides security updates. My husband, the dear, offered to upgrade my laptop as soon as I save off all documents, Internet bookmarks, etc.

I’m delighted to report that his machine, loaded with Windows 10, accessed my iPod Touch without delay. That convenience will be nice. (fingers crossed) I just need to do my part.

Procrastination aside, on the way home from a recent errand I decided to drive around the neighborhood. A few blocks from our street exist some of the ugliest houses I have ever seen. Pulling over to sneak a few photos made me think of Pam, especially when I saw the following mailbox. ~grin~ Sad to say, the grubby thing matches sad surrounding duplexes.

Sorry my focus is worse than I realized. The dreary weather doesn't help.
The westward valley beyond these homely dwellings is quite scenic, prettier than overgrown scrub bordering our property. It's what first drew me to that block years ago and I am a bit envious. The street lacks a view of the river, though, and our brick ranch is no Frankenstein Monster style eyesore. I'm so tempted to go back with my camera and take more images because this isn't one of the ugliest.


Do you suppose those rooftop dividers are rain gutters? But why must they stand so prominent?


Monday, January 6, 2020

Technical Difficulties – & – Tooling Around Town

My iPod Touch is an unexpected luxury gifted by my husband about two years ago. For the most part, I appreciate carrying my entire music library on the go and tend to use no other features.

The camera is incredible, though, with great resolution. Being more portable than my Canon PowerShot means it has seen more and more use.

However, yesterday I could not upload my latest images. I won’t bore you with technicalities, but my every attempt led to a mysterious dead end. My husband promised to do some research and assist me. In the meantime, driving to the YMCA this morning I spotted a white squirrel.

I pulled over to take a few photos. Uploading one to my Instagram account (which sees little use) garnered access so I can share here.

Alas, the quality is disappointing for whatever reason. But at least you can see one of our little neighbors. Not an albino, these cuties have brown eyes. And we think they are spreading.
Where did I bury that acorn?
Maybe taking new pictures has sort of reset the upload option. I’ll let you know what happens. With any luck, this won’t be the last sunny day for a while, because all our local squirrels seem to be having a grand time foraging. The next time I go out, I’ll snag my trusty Canon for good measure.

Have you heard the old adage that butterflies are solar powered? Do you agree that the same can be said for squirrels?