Sunday, February 19, 2012

Better Homes & Gardens Ideas

I saw this idea on the Better Homes & Gardens website.  Seven roses, cut short, and put into a circular vase.  How cool is that?
Walter, the Assistant Gardener

Walter likes to dig.  We discovered that the first week we had him.  He dug a hole under the fence, and he did that two more times.  We've fortified the fence with bricks and wood planks, and hopefully, the fence will contain him.

He found a new place to dig:  the garden.  This morning when I woke up, I saw dirt all over the patio.  Then I realized he had dug very deep holes in the garden.  What's funny is that he didn't touch the parsley or lettuce.  He dug right between them.  There's a little grapefruit tree in that garden, but he didn't harm it.  He just dug a hole right beside it.  Next outdoor project:  chicken wire around the garden....
Christmas Morning

Since we got Walter, I've been reading all of Cesar Millan's books and watching his show, The Dog Whisperer.  One thing that he said really stuck with me:  "To a dog, every day is Christmas morning."  I love that.  Walter certainly personifies that sentiment.  He is so happy to explore and discover new things.

You know that other saying, " I hope to be half as good a person as my dog thinks I am."  That's something to strive for, too.
Plumber's Helper

Yes, this is one more thing I can add to my list of things that I've learned how to do since retirement.  Yesterday, my husband was fixing toilets in the house, and I heard him calling me for assistance.  Who knew I would be a plumber's helper?  I learned the difference between a vise grip, crescent wrench, and a strap wrench.  As anyone who knows me realizes, I am not the most patient person.  I think it's because I'm hyperactive, and waiting is really hard for me.  Every time my husband would direct me, I asked, "OK, can I go now?"  He would say, "No, why don't you stick around for a little while longer?"  I would sigh, and say, "OK."

Right now, he's teaching me to make a chicken and andouille gumbo, but am I in the kitchen observing his every move?  Nope, I'm in the office on the computer.  Like I said, I am not the world's most patient person.  He showed me how he makes the roux:  two sticks of butter, melted in the microwave, and then whisk in a cup of flour.  Brown it in the microwave for five minutes, stir, and then back in the microwave for four minutes, stir, then three minutes, stir, then two minutes, stir, then one minute, stir, and then add the vegetables, two onions sliced up, a bell pepper, a couple of stalks of celery, and several cloves of garlic.  Stir up about half of the vegetables in the roux - that carmelizes the vegetables and cools off the roux.  Then back into the microwave for one minute, and let it sit for about five minutes.  Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to boil, and add the andouille.  After the vegetables and roux have sat for the five minutes, then add that mixture to the andouille and water, one spoon at a time.  Add the rest of the vegetables to the andouille and water.  Then add chicken thighs and cook for at least an hour and a half.

Now that I've observed the whole process, it's not really as hard as I'd imagined.  I bet lots of things are like that, if only I had to patience!

So anyway, getting back to being a plumber's helper, the toilets have stopped leaking - how wonderful!!!  Do you get the impression that I'm easily distracted?  I started off writing about plumbing, and then had to write about learning to cook a gumbo, and then I went back to plumbing.  Yes, that's really the way my brain works, bouncing around from one topic to another.  It's amazing that I accomplish as much as I do!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rainbow Sliver

Saturday afternoon, we saw a prism in the clouds.  It was just a sliver of rainbow, and then another one appeared just below the cloud.  I've never seen anything like it in my life.  How beautiful!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Walter Escapes Again

I had just let Walter out into the backyard so he could relieve himself.  A few minutes later, I heard the door bell.  I could already guess - Walter had gotten out again, and my neighbors found him.  Yep, he dug under the fence and escaped from the back yard.

I have wonderful neighbors, and they've all met Walter.  He is so affectionate, it's hard not to love him in return.  Courtney and her two friends had Walter, thank goodness.  I got his leash, made him sit, and attached it to his collar.  I offered to let them play with Walter, and they looked happy to oblige.  I told them I would be back in 15 minutes.

When I got back, I didn't see them, but in a little while, I knocked on the door, and Courtney's Dad said they were in the backyard.  They had taken Walter for a long walk.  That dog has more energy than I do, and he's more hyper than I am, which I'm sure those who know me will find hard to believe.  It still doesn't slow him down.  Walter has energy to spare.  
Braised Pork Shanks

Since I've been home, I started doing something I never did before - watching a cooking show called The Chew.  Anyone who knows my knows that my husband of 23 years has done most of the cooking.  In fact, he wooed me with food.  They say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but I'm here to tell you that it works for women, too.  When we were dating, he peeled crabs for me to eat.  When I told me brother, he asked incredulously, "Deb, he peeled crabs for you? You should marry that guy!"  That's not the only reason I married him, but I will say he is the best husband.

Anyway, now that I'm retired, I am exploring the domestic goddess part of myself.  Cooking is never something that I did much of, especially since Wayne has been such a good cook.  I remember when my mom came to live with us, and she raved about Wayne's cooking.  She told him, "You should open a restaurant!"  I asked her, "What about me?"  She said, " Oh, no, you should just keep working!"  Oh well....  she would be so surprised to see me cooking now.

One of the chefs on the show, The Chew, made braised pork shanks.  Not everything they cook on that show appeals to me, but for some reason this recipe did, which is weird, because I was macrobiotic for a long time (that's a very strict vegetarian), but here I am now as a meat-eater.  As an aside, when I first met Wayne, I was macrobiotic at the time, and everything I cooked, he wanted to add animal protein to.  I fixed him millet, and he complained to his friends, "She made me birdseed!"  You know those bell-shaped bird foods you see in the store?  They're made of millet, so that's what he thought I was cooking for him - birdseed.  Yes, we've come a long way in our culinary exploits.

Getting back to the braised pork shanks, I don't even know what a shank is, but it looked good on TV, so I asked Wayne to go to the grocery for me and get pork shanks.  He didn't know what they were either, so he looked it up in Julia Child's book, The Joy of Cooking.  He discovered that it's part of the leg of the pig.  Off he went to the store (I would have gone myself, but I just had knee surgery, and I'm not walking that easily).  When he returned home, he said the butcher at the store didn't have pork shanks, but he produced a $13.00 piece of meat, that he said was a picnic ham.  The label said it was a fresh pork shoulder.  I know nothing about meat.  In fact, I have never even cooked a roast in my life.  There are so many things I have never cooked, which isn't that hard to imagine, since I am just exploring cooking at this point of my life.  Well, I wasn't sure what to do with the "picnic ham," but in the inimitable words of Scarlett O'Hara, I thought to myself, "I'll worry about that tomorrow."  I put the meat in the refrigerator to deal with the next day.

OK.  The next day arrived, and I got out the recipe.  I read it through several times.  Don't you just love it when the recipe says, "easy" and time required for preparation, "two hours?"  I am here to tell you that it took me three days of cooking to prepare braised pork shanks.  First, I had to brine the picnic ham and leave it overnight.  Then I had to cut off the thick skin - you should have seen me trying to saw away at it.  You really do know that this came from a pig when you're struggling to get the skin off the meat.  Then I prepared the seasoning broth.  Next, I cut up the meat in small pieces to dip in flour and brown in oil in the cast iron frying pan.   I put the meat in the dutch oven to cook at 300 degrees for several hours.  After the meat was cooked, I put the meat in the broth to marinate it overnight.  Today we will actually sit down to eat the braised pork shanks.  Hallelujah!   I will say, that while I was browning the meat, I sampled it, and boy, did it taste good!  Who knew?  Well, I didn't because I am a beginner at this cooking gig.  I'm hoping that it's good after soaking all night in the broth.  But two hours is not true.  I'm telling you - three days to cook this recipe!!!!
Short-Term Memory Loss & What's Important

I was reading a book review in the AARP magazine:  Where Did I Leave My Glasses? by Martha Weinman Lear, and she said after 50, you do lose some short-term memory, but you also gain a sharper ability to screen out what's not that important.  I have been experiencing that.  Things that were so important earlier in life, just don't have the same meaning that they used to have.  It makes life a lot simpler.

I've only been retired five months now, but my life has changed drastically.  Life is made up of sleeping, reading, cooking, gardening, walking the dog - nothing momentous, but extremely satisfying to me.  After working for 35 years, finally, I am a housewife.  My mom used to envy me because she said I got to be out and about as a "career girl."  I told her that she was lucky because she got to be a housewife.  I get to stay home now, and I love it.  I don't know if my life will be like this for the next 35 years (if I even live that long), but for right now, it's enough.  I read about people with so much ambition and all the things they're doing out in the world.  For me, I am content to stay home and try out new recipes - for now...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Walter Ate the Carpet!

Do you have any idea how old this Persian rug is?  I don't either.  It was a rhetorical question.  It has been in my family for several generations (I'm guessing).  And Walter ate part of it last night.  When my husband said Walter had eaten the rug, I had to come see for myself.  He had it rolled up and was chewing on it, and my husband shooed him away to uncover this picture.  Oy vey!

Walter has been chewing his bed, and he ate part of the zipper.  I'm wondering if it's in his stomach and if he'd set off the security gate at the airport if he went through it.

We keep reminding ourselves that he's a puppy and he's teething.....

Friday, February 3, 2012

Is Nothing Sacred To These Cats?

One of my friends sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers to cheer me on as I recover from knee surgery.  I put the flowers in the middle of the table, with great hopes that I might be able to enjoy them for a while.

Before Cats

Day One:  the cats (there are four inside cats, so I am not sure who the culprit is, but I have my suspicions) chewed on one of the ferns in the bouquet and threw it up on the table.

Day Two:  more ferns are missing from the bouquet.  Some are shredded, and others are pulled out whole.  The ferns are sporting little cat teeth bite marks.

Day Three:  the cats have started in on the flowers now.  They have pulled out several rose stems, and petals are spilling onto the table.  Most of the ferns have been destroyed.

Day Four:  flowers and ferns are on the floor, chewed up into tiny pieces.  I salvage what I can of the bouquet and think that since most of the ferns have been removed from the bouquet, the cats might lose interest.  One of the cats is chasing the dog.  I suspect he is the one destroying the bouquet, piece by piece.

Day Five:  the dog is worn out from playing chase with the cat.  The cat ran from side to side of the sofa, while the dog ran around the whole sofa.  I know, I should have been filming it.  The bouquet has half of the flowers it arrived with, and the ferns are almost non-existent at this point.
After Cats