Sunday morning 

Can there really be anything better than a Sunday morning, with the paper and a great cup of coffee. A really special coffee, brought back from Cuba for me, the best kind of gift.  

 This week has been great weather wise. Mild, warm, very spring like. There was, of course, the obligatory freezing rain, but even that wasn’t bad. All the animals were happy, enjoying the sunshine. 

I have been very remiss in my writing so this is a brief catch up. 

 My schmaltz turned out so well that I made a pig of myself. So  I thought I should make sauerkraut with what I didn’t devour on bread. My mother used to make her own sauerkraut in a big crock in a corner of the basement. It was delicious. My sister and I used to eat it straight from the crock. Sauerkraut salad was a particular favourite. Every fall when the fresh cabbages are out I want to make some but even I can’t eat a crock full of sauerkraut. One of best meals of sauerkraut I’ve had was at expo in Vancouver. The German pavilion had a huge oven filled with pork roasts and a caldron of sauerkraut cooking away in the pork drippings. It was rich and sweet and so good I wanted more. The man in front of me being served had asked for more meat and the disgruntled server had hacked off half a pork roast and dumped it rather unceremoniously on his plate. “You want more meat–here you go…”  He probably snapped in the  heat and dealing with lines of tourists snaking thru the pavilion must have been the last straw. So I was leary about asking for more, but I’ve never forgotten how sweet and sour it was and I’ve been trying to recreate it ever since. 

I melted sugar in a hot pan–and added a couple of jars of sauerkraut.   

    I stirred in the drippings, a handful of caraway seeds, and let it simmer away all afternoon.  

  

   

  It wasn’t sweet enough so I added some Demerara sugar. Not traditional but very tasty. Sausage and spaetzle completed the meal. 

Friday was my sons 25th birthday. We had fish tacos and his favorite cake, angle food with marshmallow icing. I think he liked his sparkler.  

   So all in all a very good week. Now to go do chores. 

A visitor

Friday morning when I did chores I found a pouf of feathers, a small gut pile and the wings of one of my big black hens.  What?!?

 Look at the hole the beak made in that bone!!   I figured it must be an owl. The fence around the pen is 8 feet high so no dog creature got in–or skunk–or weasel. Weasels just drink the blood anyway and skunks are hibernating now. So owl. Yesterday I had to work the hockey game and my daughter sent me this… 

 I enlarged the picture but definitely an owl. 

On my way home from the game at tenish I drove by my neighbours yard and saw her car stuck in the snow.  She’s 85 years old and not too steady on her feet. I had visions of her laying face down in the snow as she tried to walk to the house. I called her from the road and thankfully she answered on the second ring. She had made it to the house. This morning after chores I headed over there and dug out her car and cleared her approach. It was a beautiful day and shovelling wasn’t all that hard. 

Then back home and I put some fatty pork into the oven to try to make the schmaltz I ate in Vienna. I bought it at the market close to my cousins apartment.  

 Pork drippings seasoned with garlic and onion, spread on rye bread, or country buns…so good. I’ve been dreaming about this. Of course here in the new world fat in most forms is poison. Fat feeds your brain and humans have eaten animal fat for as long as we’ve been human. I don’t understand the predilection to consume that man made fat, margarine,  at all. When my gall bladder just about killed me a few years ago I realized I could no longer eat butter on my bread half an inch thick. I pretty well went cold turkey and cut out most of the fat I eat. I prefer to save it for when it really matters, in pastry, or cake, or on really good bread. But then it’s just a schmear. Honey on toast (without butter) gets crispy. Some weird chemical reaction. Peanut butter is oily enough–so is cheese.  But pork dripping is SO yummy. I was frustrated not to find pork with enough fat so I think my schmaltz may not be fat enough. But I’ll find out at breakfast.  

 The fat gets stirred into the drippings. It should be about half fat and half juicy drippings. The gelatin thickens the drippings and it gets all unctuous and so scrummy. 

And finally this afternoon I trimmed the bully goats feet. Wow had they ever grown.   

   They are a lot better now but should be trimmed one last time before I take him home. 

All in all a productive day. 

A toddy kind of day

Last night the neighbor called to say three big white dogs were hanging out around his coyote bait station. He has young calves and a pack of big domestic dogs are every bit as dangerous as a pack of wolves. He wanted to know if my dog wandered. I don’t think she goes that far. I know she goes across the road into the hay meadow but I don’t think she goes much farther. In any event I don’t want her shot so I dug around in my old lambing supplies and found a ram marking crayon. In this cold it was pretty stiff but I warmed it up against my jug of hot water for pigs’ porridge. Then I rubbed it all over the big dog. She thought she was just getting some loving 😊😊

 I told my neighbour that my dog was pink and he shouldn’t shoot her. I really don’t think she goes that far. I keep hoping she will produce some puppies for me but even though we’ve had a big male dog visit, it’s always been the wrong timing. 

The sun was out today but I just couldn’t get warm. Today after my bus run and chores were all done I made myself a hot rum toddy. I confess the idea wasn’t original. I get a few foody blogs and one of them was talking about toddies. I too like my toddy with tea and I had half a teapot full of strong day old tea. So half a cup of tea, a sploosh of lemon juice, a bit of water– nuke it for a couple minutes then a big spoon full of Demerara sugar, and a healthy  sploosh of Lambs dark rum.  Scrummy. I think I may have a second one 😍😍 

 

Dogs’ breakfast

This phrase is often used in a pejorative way to describe something unappetizing. Well, unappetizing is in the mouth of the taster. 

It’s been frigid this past weekend–no more so than a usual Saskatchewan winter–but we have been spoiled rotten with unseasonably warm weather.  However, does anyone ever get used to -34C with a windchill of -43C?  I know I don’t. And I feel even worse when I think of my poor creatures. 

We brought momma cat inside. She sprawled out over the register in the kitchen and soaked up the heat like a sponge. I hung a couple of heat lamps in the barn for the goats and increased their grain ration. My two does are fat and sassy, with a thick glowing coat of hair. But that stinky billy goat is the most unthrifty sad and pathetic goat I’ve ever seen. My neighbour and I have been sharing his room and board and I don’t think he’s ever been fed and housed so well. But he looks really poor. Thin coat (doesn’t help that he urinates all over himself to make himself more attractive to the girls) but even with all the grain and high quality hay he has yet to grow a respectable hair coat. And he hasn’t put any flesh on. He shivers and shakes and limps around. I’ve trimmed his feet (even though they were supposedly done before he came) and they are again bad. As soon as it warms up in the next day or two I will trim them again. I’ve locked the goats in the barn over night, with the pig in her house. With their body heat and the heat lamps, the temperature is 10-15 degrees warmer and of course there’s no wind. 

But the dog is outside. She does go in the barn on occasion but can’t be locked in. I’d hate to think of the fur flying if she was locked in with the goats. World war 3. So she was outside in the cold. I made her a barrel dog house but she’s such a timid thing she wouldn’t use it. She prefers to sleep up on top of a hay bale. She made herself a cosy little burrow where one bale rested against another. She was sheltered from the worst of the wind but I felt she needed some extra fuel in the old furnace. I had taken some chicken out a week before and hadn’t cooked it so Thursday I fried it up for the dog.  

 There was also a dozen or so eggs that were too old for me, a heel of cheese bread and a frying pan full of bacon grease.  

 Everything got fried up but it still looked a little thin. So I cooked up a big pot of rice and lentils and mixed that in with a big scoop of dog food.  

  

 It filled the roaster and the big dog got a big bowlful for breakfast and supper all weekend.  She thought her dogs’ breakfast was pretty darned good. 

A good place…

 

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Dr Seuss

Back in Junior High I discovered my all time favorite  book.  “The Little White Horse” by Elizabeth Goudge.  At the time I paid no attention to the preachiness of the text–I fell in love with the protagonist, the setting and the descriptions of the food.  Ms Goudge was a theologian’s daughter and a contemporary of JRR Tolkien–both were show-offs–why use one word when ten will do.  They both included long “songs”, verses, meant, I suppose to show their versatility as poets as well as novelists.  I just skipped over them.  JK Rowling said this book was her favorite and patterned her descriptions of food at Hogwarts after the delicacies prepared by Marmaduke Scarlett.  I loved stubborn proud Maria, her horrible little dog Wiggens, her stone tower bedroom with the crescent moon and stars carved on the ceiling.  Above all I loved her adventures and the ultimate triumph of good over evil.  I still read this book every year, sometimes twice!!  It holds every single vice and virtue we have as humans, and imagery of the human condition that I identified with as a young teen.  I particularly loved the descriptions on the final pages about the end of life.

     But in this world nothing stays still, and in the fullness of time Miss Heliotrope and Old Parson became very old indeed, and tired of life in this world, so they took off their bodies and laid them aside and went joyfully away into the next….and when Maria looked down the row (of her children) she felt she had nothing left to wish for…at least, only one thing…For sometimes in her dreams at night she stood beneath the branches of a mysterious wood, and looked down a moonlight glade, her eyes straining after something she could not see.  And when she woke up, there would be tears on her cheeks because her longing had been unsatisfied.  Yet she was not unhappy because of this dream.  She knew that one day, when she was a very old woman, she would dream this dream for the last time, and in this last dream of all she would see the little white horse and he would not go away from her.  He would come towards her and she would run towards him,  and he would carry her upon his back away and away, she did not know quite where, but to a good place,  a place where she wanted to be.

The last week has been very difficult for my sister and I. Our mother, who has been in long term care for several years, began to fail rapidly.  On Thursday morning, she died.

We spent the week with her. My sister slept in the arm chair and I slept on the floor, on a couple of sheepskins. Both “beds” were just uncomfortable enough that we didn’t sleep too long or too deeply, listening for signs of possible distress coming from mom.

Dying is hard work. All the major life events are hard. Making new life is hard (but perhaps the most fun); giving birth is hard–it’s not called labor for nothing–but there’s a gift at the end of it. And dying is hard work.

It’s not easy to see the bright side of death. There’s no obvious reward at the end. But it is the completion of the great circle of life to quote Walt. It’s natural and normal and sad. As my sister said, it’s supposed to be sad. It’s ok to cry. And we did lots of that. But as we sat by mom, we reminisced. We told each other stories, our version of early days, each story spawning other memories. And we laughed too. Mom had an amazing life. We had an amazing Mom. Our lives are richer because of her.

RIP Mom.

IMG

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas

I went to Vegas the first time back in ’84/85. I can’t remember exactly which year. It was February and my then boyfriend and I drove down to Mexico in my VW Rabbit. We stopped in Vegas just to have a look. There was no fancy hotel/resort/casino. It was Motel 6 all the way. But the food. OMG the food!! The hotels must have been desperate for people. There were people out on the sidewalk handing out coupons for free meals here and there, all you could eat breakfast buffets for $3, and of course there was all the free booze when you played slots. We were only there over night, maybe two, I can’t remember. But the food was incredible. Steaks cooked perfectly. The breakfast buffet with three thousand different choices, all deliciously  prepared. Not a bad meal anywhere. And real booze in the drinks. We played the nickle slots and ate and ate and ate. It was the first time I’d ever seen mini bagels, and they had been baked in a wood fired oven New York style. With smoked salmon, and cream cheese. Bliss!!

I had occasion to go back to Vegas a couple years ago. This time it was the Monte Carlo resort. Things couldn’t have been more different. There were still coupons being handed out the sidewalks but not for food–for call girls. There was no free food and what there was, was over priced and inedible. Except for this little Italian place that I had been to so many years ago. It was just around the corner from the Flamingo, just off the strip. I think it was called Battista’s. Reasonably priced authentic Italian food, free wine, real grilled garlic bread, it was like eating at your Italian grandmothers’ house. I had eggplant parmigiana. I’d never had it before so had nothing to compare it too. But this was so delicious it set the bar very high. The best meal I had in Vegas.  I think about it every now and then and tonight on the bus ride home I was hungry. Starving. My daughter had abandoned me AGAIN to fend for myself while she scarfed down a scrummy meal prepared by a friend. I had a lonely zucchini in the fridge and had a notion to make a quick knock off of the eggplant parmigiana from Vegas.  

 I thickly sliced the zucchini while some previously prepared marinara was defrosting in the microwave. I dipped the zuke in egg and flour and fried it in butter in my cast iron pan.  

  

 Arranged a single layer in a baking dish, topped it with sauce and cheese and baked it till bubbly.  

   

 
 A cocktail of Amaretto and orange juice on ice and my Italian experience was complete. 

Back to work tomorrow–blech!!

This morning I was up bright and early. Well, maybe not so early. But earlier than previously this week. My son comes for supper Sunday’s and its an excuse to make something decadent as most of what I make goes home with him. Today it’s tiramisu. When I was organizing the freezer for all my little roosters I found a package of ricotta and set it aside for this dessert. I seldom buy ricotta as I can’t really tell the difference between it and whizzed up cottage cheese but it had a pink label. 

  More on this later. Two tubs of cheese, the zest and juice of a plump lemon, half a cup of sugar and some lovely vanilla.  My daughter brought this back for me from the Dominican. Excellent flavour. 


   Whiz it up.  I made a second pot of coffee, stonger than usual, and mixed in the last cupful of coffee liqueur. 

  

  

  I dug out some ladyfingers I picked up at my new favorite Italian deli in Calgary.  Thanks Pam for taking me there. I never knew about it till our Camino ladies reunion this last August. Usually these ladyfingers are vanilla but these have a twist. Half chocolate.  

 I shaved some bittersweet chocolate off a big bar.  

  

 After Christmas I find these quite cheap. They are made in France and are quite good quality. You have to anchor the bar with your thumb or your palm as it will skitter all over the chopping block. So a quick dunk in the coffee/liqueur mix. You want to hold the cookie under the liquid till they are soaked but not till they are falling apart. They have to change colour and get heavy. You can see the color difference between the dipped and undipped cookies. 

  Arrange a layer in a pretty bowl so you can see the layers. Then pour a layer of cheese.  It will be quite loose but it firms up in the fridge. Then a layer of chocolate shavings and repeat.  

 It’s amazing how much liquid the ladyfingers will soak up. I had hoped for some leftover  for my coffee but no such luck. For supper we had rabbit. I deboned a few legs and soaked the meat in buttermilk. Spuds went into the oven and corn on the stove. I dredged the rabbit in seasoned flour then egg then back into the flour and fried it crispy in my cast iron pan.  Caesar salad on the side.  


    It was a great meal. It was a beautiful day but enough lolly gagging. Back to work tomorrow. 

No good deed

Goes unpunished or so they say. So I’m not really sure what possessed me to reach out to someone looking for help in fixing their favorite sweater on a local buy and sell site on Facebook. The sleeves on their siwash  began fraying and they were wanting someone to repair them. I’ve been a knitter since I was 8 years old. My Viennese grandmother taught me to knit the continental way, that is holding the yarn in the left hand. You could knit at light speed this way. As I got older I joined a city 4H club and I remember the horrified look of the club leader as I began to knit our project using my grandmother’s technique. I had to learn to knit the British way, that is, holding the yarn in the right hand. OMG so inefficient. But I learned and have now forgotten the old style. So anyway I picked up this ladies siwash and in about 90 minutes repaired the cuffs. I had to make the sleeves slightly shorter but she said they were too long anyway. She wanted to pay me but how do you put a price on something so simple. So this is my good deed. Maybe it’s an omen for the new year. I’ll pay it forward and maybe someone will help me when I need help.