Friday, June 20, 2003

Reading: I am not reading anything new/different so I will write about some books I have read in the past that stuck with me. Gap Creek was an Oprah book but don't hold that against it. It takes place at the turn of the last century (weird to have to specifiy which century was turning) in Appalachia and is the story of Julie's first year of marriage. The descriptions of Julie's daily life in the hills and all the work she has are very vivid. I found myself tired just reading about slaughtering pigs and chopping wood and hauling and cooking and... You get the picture. I was also talking like I was from the hills when I got done. "There is snakes dancing! I ain't seen no snakes dancing." Anyway, I liked the book a lot and thought it well written.

Eating: A couple of quick summer recipes from Pampered Chef! I will leave out the references to which PC tools you should be using. Perfect for lunch after a trip to the Farmer's Market for fresh produce: Strawberry Spinach Salad The dressing: 2 T. lemon juice, 2 T. white wine vinegar (or whatever kind of vinegar you have), 1/3 C. sugar, 1 T. vegetable oil, 1 t. poppy seeds. Whisk all together, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The salad: 1/4 C. toasted sliced almonds, 8 oz. strawberries, hulled and quartered, 1/2 of a cucumber, sliced and cut in half, 1/4 small red onion (I don't add this because I don't like raw onion in this salad), 6oz baby spinach (or shredded regular spinach). Combine all salad ingredients (except almonds) in a large bowl. Whisk dressing and pour over. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with almonds and serve immediately. Very tasty and refreshing.

Picnic Sausage and Potato Kebabs 3/4 pound petite new (red) potatoes, cut in half. Cook in microwave with 1/4 C. water for 5-7 minutes, until fork-tender. Drizzle with 1 t. olive oil. Add 1 clove garlic, pressed, 3/4 t. dried dill weed, salt and pepper (actually add the salt to the water when cooking potatoes) and gently stir together. Cut 6 large green onions into 2" pieces. Cut 1lb of bratwurst or Polish sausage into 1" pieces. Using six 12" skewers, alternately thread bratwurst, potatoes, onions and cherry tomatoes. Grill uncovered 6-8 minutes until brats are browned, turning frequently. Can be served with a mustard sauce made with 1/4 C. mayo and 2 T stone-ground mustard. I don't like mustard so I have never made the sauce. This is an easy grill recipe but nice enough to serve guests.

And for dessert, Candy Bar Parfaits. Coarsely chop 1 (1.55 oz) chocolate candy bar, 1 C. mini pretzels, 1/4 C. peanuts and mix together (freeze the candy bar for 5 minutes for easier chopping). Whisk together 1/3 C. chocolate syrup and 2 T. peanut butter. Place 1 scoop vanilla ice cream in each of 4 parfait dishes. Top each with one fourth of the candy bar/pretzel/peanut mixture and then another scoop of ice cream. Drizzle with chocolate/peanut butter sauce and sprinkle with additional pretzels and peanuts. This is SO GOOD! And I do have to say it is perfect for PMS cravings. I keep a sealed dish of the crunchy topping and one of the sauce on hand to have these whenever I need one.

Gardening: The cosmos are blooming their heads off. The coreopsis is growing like a weed. Speaking of weeds, that is what I will be doing this weekend.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

I did it! I made the pink kitties go away AND I got all the other features I want! I will test out the comments now...
Reading:I am reading to try to figure out how to enhance my Blog. I have added a counter to it so I can tell if anyone reads this, besides me. I have also changed the format and have added a place to click if you want to e-mail me. I am working on adding a comments feature but since I don't know how to read/write HTML, I am having a little difficulty with this. E-mail me and let me know what you think of the changes. The obnoxious pink kitties may go away.

Eating: We had pasta salad last night. I was glad that was on the menu because I was too hot to cook.

Gardening: My flowers were a little sad looking yesterday. I have to remember to water more frequently. I lost 2 more salvia to the rabbits (squirrels? other vermin?). My heliotrope looks a little burnt. My cosmos, which I thought were red, are hot pink. They clash with the red and purple salvia (though if the rabbits keep eating the salvia, I won't have to worry about this anymore).

Monday, June 16, 2003

Reading: Currently in the "active" reading pile are: Undaunted Courage, A Painted House, and Foundations of Customer Service. Undauted Courage is excellent. I am completely sucked into it. I am awed by the courage and tenacity of the explorers. They are paddling and pulling heavily packed boats UPSTREAM! They have no medications (even though they have all picked up venereal diseases from the friendly Indians who share their wives), they are working hard all day everyday and need to consume 9-10 pounds of meat each day to keep their energy. I don't eat that much meat in 2 weeks! This book doesn't have a lot to say about Sacagewea but she really amazes me. She is 15 years old, just had a baby, is the only woman in the group and is hauling her baby on her back over the plains (they are not yet to the mountains). I think I will read about her next.

A Painted House is by John Grisham and I would not have picked it up if it weren't for Mom insisting. It is very good, so far! I generally don't read Grisham because once you have read one, you have read them all. This one is different, though. Not a lawyer in sight. It takes place in the 50's, in rural Arkansas, on a cotton farm. The narrator is a 7 year old boy, son of farmers who rent their land and therefore do not have a painted house. It makes me glad I am not a cotton farmer or a Mexican or "hill person" hired to pick the cotton.

Foundations of Customer Service is one I am reading for work. It is boring. I get $50 if I pass the test after reading it. (I wish I got $50 for every boring book I pulled myself through)

Eating: I don't think I have written about Enchilada Casserole yet but I can't remember the whole recipe so I will come back to that one. We had chicken fajitas last night. I use the Schilling season packet to make them. Not too difficult.

This weekend I hope to go strawberry picking. The berries should be ripe. Last year, the berries at Bauer Berry Farm were absolutely beautiful. Big, juicy and sweet! I froze a bunch of them on cookie sheets and then packed them in freezer bags so I could have a few at a time. The smoothies I made were delicious. I keep a big tub of vanilla yogurt in the fridge so they are a breeze to make. A couple big spoonsful of yogurt, a splash of whatever juice available, a handful of frozen strawberries, another of frozen blueberries (also from Bauer Berry) or half a frozen banana or a kiwi. Puree until smooth. The frozen fruit is easier on your blender than ice and the smoothies don't get watered down.

I also would like to go to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. Besides all the good fresh produce, there is a stand there that has excellent tortillas in a variety of flavors (garlic, herb, tomato, etc.) and in a couple different sizes. I think I may have missed asparagus season but there is always something in season. My rule at the Farmer's Market is to avoid the stands where they sell pineapple. They are not selling local products and if I wanted California produce, I would go to the grocery store.

Gardening: On my day off on Friday (I work 80 hours in 9 days and get every other Friday off), I finished planting my shade garden. Finally! I only had a dozen or so plants left to put in--polka dot plants, begonias and coleus--and then I finished mulching the area. It looks lovely, if I do say so myself. I don't think I will ever be DONE but I am done with the plants I had already purchased. Saturday I planted my long-planned sunflower hedge and got a sunburn on my neck and shoulders. When will I learn?!
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