Hiatus

So this post is a bit difficult for me to make. Why? Because it means acknowledging what’s been going on with me, healthwise. For the past few months, I’ve experienced a steady decline in my health. I haven’t talked about it much and I really have no great wish to go into it now, either. What I will say is that the steady decline took a nosedive to the point I’m always utterly exhausted, even by the littlest things. Yes, I’m getting medical care and things are in motion to get me back on my feet, but for now, I am making the choice to step back from things, despite really not wanting to. I need to, for my health and my sanity.

So, until further notice, I’m putting my blog on hiatus. This goes for both my own posts as well as any guest posts. I’m looking forward to picking it all back up again once I’m feeling like what passes for a normal human being. In the meantime, I hope you will keep on reading and crafting. Take care, everyone, and thanks for being my guest.

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Guest Post:Making The Rainbow

yarnbagsHi again! I’m another Karen, owner of Karin’s nearby yarn shop, Cozy!

One of the most frequent questions I get at the shop is, “How do you pick all the colors? It must be so hard!” Short answer, it is. It’s so hard that I welcome the chance to not pick, when given it; I love it when yarn companies require me to order every color in a line, or sell “surprise” assortments, or even just offer so few colors that I don’t have to think!

However, it is often the case that I need to look at a fat binder of yarn snips with a yarn company representative (or “rep”) and just choose. Because I can’t–and probably don’t even need to–have all the colors all the time. (Did you know Cascade 220 comes in 188 colors? I am acutely aware.) I just have to try to predict a) what will be “in” this year, b) what colors my customers will love, and c) what colors will best fit the projects people are really making.

In this case, here is how I do it: I make a spreadsheet, old-school style. The vertical axis has the yarn lines, usually a few different weights or fibers from a dyer or company. The horizontal slots are by color: Red, Orange, Yellow, and so on. And then I make sure to have at least one colorway that covers each color. That’s the first part.

Then there are the exceptions… For instance, I usually choose cream over bright white, because most people prefer it, except when it come to baby things and bridal things. So if a yarn is very fine lace or baby-friendly acrylic, I choose bright white. And then, blue is tricky. I try to pick a green-blue (teal?) and a standard blue, when I can, but then that also leaves the door open for baby blue, which is always a maybe. (There are so many blues!) And a final dilemma is always yellow: do I even get yellow? People feel very strongly about yellow–they either love it or hate it, and oftentimes yarn companies predict this and leave it out of yarn lines altogether. But in a town that loves its college football the way Eugene does, I can’t not have yellow.

So, right there, if I cover all the color categories: Black, White, Grey, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple… that’s 10. Oh, and pink. I can’t leave out the pink! (It’s my personal favorite color.) I look at the yarn, make sure I choose at least the basic 11, and go from there. An additional blue, maybe two shades of green, maybe a handful of variegated colors to match… and that’s more like 20-24 colors in a yarn. To start.

So that’s a little insight into the color choice process, although many times, it gets far more whimsical than described (I’m a sucker for pop-culture-named yarns). And, despite all that decision-making, guess what our best-sellng color is, in almost every yarn? GREY. No kidding.

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Heaven in a Cup

Hubby and I got a few sample packs from Adagio (no, I’m not affiliated and no I won’t get anything from this) and it’s been a treat to try new teas. I’m keeping a list of the ones we definitely like (suppose I ought to make one of nevermore, too). So far we’ve tried two of their Zodiac teas – Sagittarius, which is heaven in a cup. Yummm! And the Leo is also very good.

Another cup of heaven is their Assam Melody. Both hubby and I instantly fell in love with this blend. So, so good. Of course, stroopwafels make any tea that much better 😉 (If you’re near a Costco, check there. They sometimes have huge boxes and the prices are reasonable).

So far the only tea we haven’t liked is matcha. Granted, I may have royally screwed up how to make it since I never have brewed it before and I certainly don’t own the proper tools to do it the way it should be done, but neither of us cared much for it. I will, however, give the tea another shot if I can ever get a chance to have it made traditionally.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make myself a cup of Golden Monkey tea.

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Sit with me

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

Jennifer Theriot

WHAT IS YOUR AGE?

63, soon to be 64

WHAT KIND OF WORK DO YOU DO (OR HAVE YOU DONE)?

I ACTUALLY HAVE TWO CAREERS!

CFO by day for a FEMALE-OWNED, award winning real estate investment firm (I LOVE my day job!)

Romance author of seasoned romance, with main characters over the age of 30 by night and on weekends (I LOVE my ‘night job’!)

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE HOBBIES?

Reading, sitting on the beach, going to baseball games, spending time with my family and friends. I have five beautiful grandkids and family time is so very important to my husband and I. I also love to cook! I started the Keto diet in July and have loved pinning and trying new recipes I find on Pinterest. Pinterest is very addictive…

WHAT EXCITES YOU?

At my age, a good bottle of wine and elastic waist pants.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THIS YEAR? NEXT YEAR? NEXT FIVE YEARS?

Complete two books I’m currently working on. Next year? Maybe publish another two. Five years? I’d better be living the high life of retirement!

MOST RECENT BOOK YOU’VE COMPLETED?

Relationship Resuscitation. It’s a joint project I was involved in with 6 other authors, called The Juniper Court Series. It was a blast and the books have gotten rave reviews. Check out the website for more on the other books: https://www.junipercourtseries.com/

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENTS?

The birth of my three kids, and the fact they’ve been raised to be productive members of society is probably my proudest achievement. Being married over 30 years to my silver fox hubby is another proud achievement. I had to give myself a pretty big ‘atta girl’ when I published my first romance novel back in 2013.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING YOUR AGE?

The best thing about being 63 is that I’m actually comfortable in my own skin. Am I fit and thin? Nope. Do I have a few wrinkles? Yup. Do I care? Not a bit. The aging process is a right of passage and if you savor the years you have left, I think it puts your mind and psyche into a harmonious homeostasis. (You can’t tell I’m a 60’s wild child, can you?)

WHAT DO YOUNGER PEOPLE GET WRONG ABOUT PEOPLE YOUR AGE?

I think the younger generation thinks because you’re over 60 that you’re ancient. You don’t have good sex or romance in your life, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth! You’re only as old as you feel, so why not live by the mantra that 60 is the new 40!

HOW IS YOUR OUTLOOK ON LIFE DIFFERENT TODAY THAN IT WAS IN THE PAST?

My outlook is definitely more stress-free, although I do find myself thinking about my mortality at times. It depends on the day, but on the whole, my outlook on life is positive and I can’t wait to see where the next ten years take me!

WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I write 2nd chance ‘grownup romance from the other side of 30’ under Jennifer Theriot and under the nom de plume, J.D. Frettier, I write spicy romantic comedy from the after life, a series called The Green Room Chronicles. My titles can be found on Amazon:(Jennifer Theriot) http://amzn.to/1NmW2tA and (J.D. Frettier) http://amzn.to/2qGPS3V

WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA?

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferTheriotAuthor

https://www.facebook.com/jdfrettierauthor

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/JenTheRiot

WEBSITE: http://www.jennifertheriot.com

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/jtheriot2000/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/jktheriot/

 

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Long Time Coming

I know, I know, today’s post is running late but hey, I have a very good reason. Hubby and I are on our first vacation in 16 years (his job makes it difficult to get away, let’s just leave it at that) and only just got back from a weekend camping trip with a couple of friends and family. It’s been a very long time coming, indeed, but so far we’re having a great time.

What a view, eh? The campsite we had was great. Minor drawback being it was close to a busy road, but it wasn’t too bad that it disrupted our stay much. We had the campground mostly to ourselves which was awesome. We brought waaaaaaaaay more food than we could hope to eat and all of it was awesome. My mouth gave me some issues, so I couldn’t eat nearly as much as I would have liked, but what I had was delish. I even managed to get a smore, so win!

It was cool to get to hang  out with everyone and just be able to relax and get away from it all. It even inspired a little poem, and for once it wasn’t a dark one.

The rest of the vacation’ll be stay at home, but still relaxing and I’m really looking forward to it. I may even get some crafting in if I’m really lucky. I did take my knitting along on the trip but never even picked it up. We didn’t do a damn thing all weekend besides sit around the firepit and shooting the breeze and it was wonderful.

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In A Pickle

I’ve been cooking and baking since I could crawl up on a stool next to the counter where my Grandmother would often be spread out making cookies, quick breads, or even that staple of traditional Southern cooking, fried chicken.

cucumber-tomato-salad-2-2

Light, tangy, cool and so refreshing on a hot summer day. The iconic Cucumber, tomato, and red onion quick pickled salad.

But, there was another staple of good Southern cooking that I have ignored for years now, and it was one of Grandma’s favorite things to do. But age and time slip by as we get into our busy lives thinking that we don’t have enough hours in the day for those simple, old-fashioned recipes or our Grandparents. Recently, however, I have turned back to this wonderful kitchen staple that a part of me had forgotten, and that is pickling.

For almost a year now I have been working on managing my overall health and there is one snack I have found myself turning to time, and time again, the tomato and cucumber salad. Those of you that have either grown up in the South or been around family members from there should know what it is I am talking about, that wonderful concoction of fresh, ripe summer tomatoes, bright green crunchy cucumbers, and sweet and sharp red onions all roughly chopped and stuffed into a mason jar with vinegar, salt, a pinch of sugar, and black and pink peppercorns. This was something that could be made in the early morning after picking the vegetables right from the garden, then enjoyed with dinner. Grandma’s favorite was to have it with chicken fried steaks, long-simmered mixed greens that had garlic and onions to enhance the flavors, just blanched green beans and on the side that wonderful tomato salad.

Thinking about that iconic salad brought back a bit of nostalgia for me. Even though we lived in a suburb on the outskirts of Los Angeles, our house boasted a rather large lot. Both of the front sides of the house were dedicated to homegrown goodness. Vegetable and lettuces of every variety, from iceberg to romaine, green beans, and cucumbers, to eggplant. Carrots, potatoes, onions, and rutabagas. You name it she grew it.

Now the backyard, that was where her pride and joy grew, tall strong stalks in neat rows of beefsteak tomatoes that got the full benefit of the sun. Sweet and slightly tangy I have yet to have tomatoes as good as the ones Grandma grew. She was so good at growing them we always had a plethora of the fresh, ripe fruit right up until the first dew drops of fall. And if we were really good, she would pluck a few of those tomatoes when they were still green and we would have the most amazing fried green tomatoes served next to her stuffed and smothered thick cut pork chops. Oh, and yes, she would pickle a few of those green tomatoes to use in salads, or cook up in her trusty cast iron skillet with some garlic and spices.

Well, as you can tell my Grandma could cook, and she passed her love of good cooking onto me. So, how does all that tie into my rediscovery of pickling and my health? After a few weeks of research, I found ways to take my favorite recipes that I grew up with and make them with almost no salt, but without losing all those amazing flavors.

It wasn’t the tomato and cucumber salad that set me on my journey of a new, fun passion, no it was actually that wonderful Mediterranean staple, pickled turnips. The bright purple colored sticks of mildly sweet and sharp flavors that marry well with my favorite exotic dishes That’s right, the humble, crunchy, mildly radish tasking cruciferous vegetable is perfect for pickling. I had found out that turnips are very high in nutrients, vitamins, and low in calories, and carbohydrates. It is an almost perfect snack.

pickled-turnips

The dark purple color is from the addition of a single beet.

I sought out ways to make one of my favorite accompaniments to grilled chicken, hummus, and roasted vegetables. I found many recipes with varying degrees of authenticity to what I have experienced in those warm and welcoming Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants I fell in love with when my husband and I lived in Glendale, California. However, most, if not all, had sodium amounts that would make anyone’s heart flip around in their chest. I wondered if I could adapt one of these recipes to ease up on the salt and add a little more of one or more of the other ingredients without losing that pickled taste. So, that is when I experimented. Luckily my very first batch came out delicious, and my husband almost devoured half the jar in two days! That right there told me I was on to something. The second batch was even more successful than the first. I knew then I was really on to something.

After my couple of success with the turnips, I then decided it was time to try my hand at some more adventurous pickling. I took to marinated mushrooms, Japanese inspired

giardineria

Hot and Spicy Italian Giardiniera

pickled cucumbers, that ubiquitous tomato, cucumber, and red onion salad, and my recent most adventurous pickling, the Italian relish, hot and spicy Giardiniera. There is nothing like a good Italian sub sandwich with some spicy Giardiniera chopped up on top, or thrown on an antipasti plate, or even a good lettuce salad. Or, grinding it down and mixing in an olive salad to make a topping for my take on a Muffaletta. The results were even better than I expected. Spicy, crunchy, tangy, it hit all the right notes. My husband even proclaimed that I shouldn’t ever make it again because he’s tempted to eat the whole jar’s worth.

I want to branch out and try more vegetables, like green beans, okra, or even a version of that other Southern staple, chow-chow. Pickling can be a wonderful addition to anyone’s culinary adventure, and with some careful thought and planning, it is easy to keep the sodium content down.

Pinterest, Instagram, foodie blogs, and even Facebook are full of recipes and pictures of people trying their own hand at homemade pickling. There seems to be a new food revolution with many people learning to pickle and can their own fresh vegetable and fruits. Yes, believe it or not, pickled strawberries are a thing, and if done right they can be a wonderful addition to a bowl of fresh churned vanilla custard ice cream. The vinegar in this instance is some balsamic vinegar, which can be a nice twist on some old favorites, like the tomato, cucumber, and red onion salad like I had grown up with. I encourage anyone to try their hand at pickling, you would be very surprised at how easy, and delicious an adventure it can be.

Here are just a couple of my personal favorite pickling recipes. You can adjust the salt and spices to your own liking.

Japanese Inspired Pickled Cucumbers

8 – 10 small Persian Cucumbers (You can use English as well, but the Persian are milder 

pickled-cucumber

Japanese inspired pickled cucumbers

in flavor and crunchier in texture.)

1 cup no sodium Rice Vinegar

1/4 cup Sesame Oil

1/3 cup no or low sodium and low sugar Mirin (This is a Japanese Rice Cooking wine.)

3 – 4 cloves of garlic roughly chopped

1/2 Small red onion roughly chopped

1 Tlbs Pink Peppercorns

1 Tlbs Black Peppercorns

1/4 tsp kosher salt (Believe me I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but you will be surprised)

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (Optional)

Slice the cucumbers in 1/8th-inch slices and add them to a clean and sterilized clamp jar. In a separate bowl add the vinegar, oil, mirin, salt, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes if using, With a whisk mix all ingredients thoroughly then add to the pickles. Clamp the lid and set inside the refrigerator for two to three days. You can use these right away, but they are best left to really marry those flavors. These can be enjoyed with a nice stir-fry, a bowl of Ramen soup, or even plucked right out of the jar and eaten as a snack.

 

Pickled Turnips

Four medium sized turnips washed, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick sticks

1 small beet washed, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick sticks

3 – 4 cloves of garlic roughly chopped

4 cups of water

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cup white vinegar

2 Tbs kosher salt

In a large bowl toss the turnips, beet, and garlic together then layer into a clean, sterilized clamp jar, pack as tightly as you can. In a medium saucepan add the water, bay leaves, and salt, bring to a simmer and cook till the salt completely dissolves. Take the pan off the stove and let cool completely. When ready add the vinegar to the water then carefully pour into the jar with the turnips. This will be where you must have restraint, the pickles need to sit in a cool, dry place, but not the refrigerator, for 5 to 7 days. Try them after 5 days, they should be crunchy, slightly sweet, with a good bite of vinegar to them. If not let them sit for another couple of days, then pop them into the fridge.

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Toothless/-no more

I gotta tell ya, dentures take getting used to like whoa. My mouth is (obviously) still healing, so there’s that aspect of it. Another is… well, let’s just say my mouth is now a lot smaller and I now have even more issues trying to make sure foods only go one way.

That said, I can eat again. Solid foods, that is. Not quite back to everything I used to be able to, but I’m getting there slowly but surely. Yay! Hubby’s promised me a nice steak dinner as soon as I’m able to handle that sort of thing again and I can hardly wait ;-).

Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to crafting soon, too, because not being able to is really starting to get on my nerves.

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