Monday, August 29, 2016

Where have I been?

I've been pretty busy for the last week, using all of my spare time to set up my new Surface Pro 4. No time for blogging.

I am trying to simplify my life. In the walkout basement, next to my soap room, is my "office," if you can call it that. I have an older computer with a tower, a BIG screen, a nice wireless keyboard and two printers. Yes, I do often need two printers. One prints double sided without having to raise a finger, the other is the backup workhorse when I have a huge pile of printing to do and limited time.

Then there is the laptop, that I really didn't use much until I discovered how handy it was at the market. Instead of going home with a list of questions posed by my customers, I now just walk over the the laptop and google things. I'm not proud. I explain to my customers what I am doing, as well as giving them some tips to get better information when they do it themselves. And then I discovered that if I put my business apps and data files on the laptop, they were always with me. On slow days at the market, I could catch up on entering information into my accounting software, and since the desktop is really nicer, I could go home and use it, but have it talk to the laptop to get to the data files.

I should have done it with Outlook as well, but I am so afraid of messing up the files. Lots of history in those old Outlook folders, and I can find all sorts of things in that program. However, I am prone to missing meetings, or being very late for them, because I haven't gotten down to the basement to open Outlook and get organized. So I use the internet to open emails at the market, and then have to send a copy of my responses to my Outlook account so I have a record of them when I get home to the desktop, and then there's my Droid - both email accounts are on it as well, and I'm confused - VERY confused!

I have been looking at the Microsoft Surface Pro, as it supposedly could take the place of a laptop. Could it work? Really? One machine, small enough that I could slip it in a handbag, with all of the stuff I have on the desktop and the laptop! I was pretty sure that the Pro 4 would hold all I needed to transfer to the new machine.

I bought one. I moved all of the data files from the laptop over, then started with the desktop files. I RAN OUT OF ROOM! Say what? There were a lot of duplicate files, which I have since taken care of, but I hauled it back to Best Buy with the intention of buying a bigger one, or else just getting another laptop, which would have a whole lot more storage space on it for the same money.

The first thing the salesman did was hit the "RESTART" buttons on side-by-side machines, one a super-fast laptop, the other a tablet (which is what Surface Pro is). The tablet - well, it's almost like turning on a light switch. My middle name is Impatience, so I said, okay, I need to go one higher on the Surface machines. Oops! Got a thousand dollars to spare? No way!

Then he showed me this tiny little slot into which one can slide a SIM card - like you would put into your digital camera to get more storage. For only $59, it doubled my storage space, and now I have a D: drive, which I kind of like because I can separate files. It appeals to my neat and orderly mind.

Back home with the Surface Pro 4, insert the SIM card, and put everything from the desktop onto that tiny little card. In my desktop, I had installed a second hard drive, just for data - one drive for applications, one for data. See, I really do have a neat and orderly mind which I was very thankful for when I had a major crash. Well, sliding a SIM card into a slot was sure easier than taking the cover off a tower, screwdriver in hand! And I can buy more of them for storing archived MSMoney files and old pictures.

Getting Outlook loaded was a bit dicey and required a call to AT&T, but all is working well. I think I'm finally there! I know, I know, it took a whole week, and I am now going to have to put up with all of the Mac people saying how much easier it it with a Mac, but I saved about $2,500. Not bad for a few hours of work crammed into my spare time, and I learned a lot!

Here's a pic of my new little baby. And BTW, if I think I need that big monitor and the ergonomic keyboard, I can hook this up to them in a nanosecond and I'm ready to roll. I'm happy.

Surface Pro 4  Follow this link to see more of what she'll do.

Here she is!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mitch McConnell was down on the end of my block today.

Who knew?

I wonder what he was doing here in Mishawaka.

I managed to snap a few pictures before he got away. Of course, he is a little slow so he wasn't hard to catch up with. All that being said, he did stop for one nice head-on shot. Hoping Jon Stewart sees these pics. I'm sure he will enjoy them.

Way to go, Mitch!

Isn't he lovely?
The river is behind you Turn around!
Onward and upward

Go, Mitch!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Daisy - she was a GREAT British cook!

Someone recently told me about The Great British Baking Show, and I just started watching. Enough with the politics. This is a delightful show, and it is bringing back many memories of my dear mother-in-law Daisy. She put the lie in "boring British cookery." She could cook!

I treasure a handwritten recipe she gave me for how to make treacle pudding. Although she called it "treacle" pudding, it was made with Tate and Lyles Golden Syrup. In the instructions, she wrote that she had David (my husband at the time) hold the string while she tied down the waxed paper that was part of steaming the pudding. Steaming pudding? Had they not heard of Jell-O? Maybe I will share her recipe with you in a future post. Today, I just want to do a shout out for British Grub, also the name of a cookbook she gave me.

When I became part of Dave's family, I learned to understand English without asking Dave to interpret for me when we were alone. I learned to love a woman who loved her son fiercely and eventually took me in, once I had met her approval. I learned to make a proper cup of tea. Daisy said that the Americans couldn't make tea, and the British couldn't make coffee. Agreed. I learned to do both - coffee from my German mother, and tea from my British mother-in-law.

She made tea every morning for Dave's dad, and he rang a bell to let her know when he was awake. She then carried his cuppa into the bedroom and served him his morning tea. She told me she would get me a bell for David. I told Dave if he tried that routine with me, he would be wearing that bell where the sun don't shine!

Our Christmas dinner went from turkey or ham to roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. It was a nice transition. I miss those dinners. Perhaps I will have a proper British dinner for a few friends this year on Christmas Day. I spend my Christmas days alone, since my family does Christmas Eve, and it is crown roast of pork at my son's house. But I do have fond memories of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, finished with treacle pudding drizzled with Bird's custard for dessert, along with hot tea.

What is it with the British and their puddings? "Two great nations divided by a common language." (Attributed to both George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde.) Treacle pudding made by steaming, and Yorkshire pudding made in hot beef drippings.  Oh, that Yorkshire pudding, I remember watching it puff up in the oven, browning here and there on the top. It was then cut up and served on the side of the roast beef slices, with good, dark rich gravy over all. Oh, and oven roasted potatoes. She taught me well. I'm sure my grasp of British cooking helped us get over a rough start. But we did, and I cherish the memories of her. She treated my children as her own grandchildren, and they both have fond memories of her.

Daisy also taught me to make a proper English breakfast - with fried bread (in butter, my friends, not lard or bacon fat), sunny side up eggs, and very thick bacon. The other breakfast I often made was her recipe for English crepes. Nothing fancy, but oh, so good. Very thin crepes, hot from the pan, with fresh lemon squeezed over them, then sprinkled with sugar and rolled up. Three to a plate, and garnished with a lemon wedge. And a cup of hot tea made right.

Okay, one full recipe here.

How to make a good cup of tea. 

First pour boiling water in the pot to heat it, swish it around and dump it out. Bring more water to the boil, then turn off. Then throw black tea leaves into the bottom of the pot (I happen to favor Ceylon), use about a heaping teaspoon of tea per cup, then pour the water (not boiling, but still very hot) into the pot. Pop on the tea cozy. If you don't have one, then covering the pot with a heavy dish towel will work fine. Let it sit until you see that the tea leaves have sunk to the bottom of the pot. Then oh so carefully, so you don't disturb the leaves in the bottom, pour into cups that you have also rinsed with hot water. Add lemon or milk depending on your taste, and sugar if you must. There may be a few tea leaves in the cup. But how are you to read your tea leaves to learn your fate if you don't have a few leaves in the bottom?

Reading tea leaves

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Rhianna - where oh where did you go?

I got a Roomba 780, named her Rhianna, and happily used her for nearly a month, and just three days before my 30 day return with no questions asked period, she went brain dead.

Oh, how I missed her! But while I waited for my refund (yes,Amazon gave me back every penny, and paid for the return shipping), I did quite a bit of research.

I had a Roomba for years, but she really got to be too expensive to keep going, and I finally sent her to the heap. The 780 was much nicer, bigger bin, could run longer between charges. However, cleaning her up was just as big a pain as it was on my old 500 series. I have the world's hairiest dog, and even with the special tools that came with the newer model, it took a looooooooooooong time to remove hair from dust bin, both rollers, bearing housings and wheels.

I did a lot of research before replacing her, and Monday my new Rhianna, the 880 model arrived. I ran her for the first time yesterday, and I am very pleased. There are no brushes, and I was leery of how well she would take up the dog hairs. She did. No brush to clean. Okay, the jury is still out, but as of today, I am very happy with this newer model. I just came home from a forty-five minute trip to pick up my Mantis roto-tiller (that's another story for another day), and she had cleaned the whole living room floor and was safely back in her docking station.

Looks like perhaps Rhianna II and I are going to become new best friends.

Rhianna II

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Today we celebrate Lughnasadh and feats of strength ...

There are eight holidays on the Pagan Wheel of the Year. And today we celebrate Lughnasadh, also known as Lammas. It is a celebration of the first harvest. Wheat was the harvest that was highlighted in days of old, and that meant bread and beer! Hurrah!!

Lughnasadh is the only celebration on the Wheel of the Year that hasn't been usurped by the Christian church and other religions. However, after doing a little research, I did found churches in the early 20th century did in fact have celebrations associated with this day. It is considered a "cross-quarter day," one that falls halfway between a solstice and an equinox. Lughnasadh is halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox. Hard to believe, isn't it? Soon we will be at that balancing point, after which fall, early sunsets and then winter are upon us. Wherever does the time go?

So what were the Christians doing with this holiday in the early 1900's? Well, they did a couple of things, one being to climb a hill (notice they didn't say mountain, but I suppose if you had one handy, that would count). The other was to have contests displaying feats of strength. And there was always water involved in the festivities. So who could carry the heaviest pail of water up the hill? Sounds like a plan to me!

We're all set this afternoon. The river provides the water, there is a hill between the river bank and my house, and I'm going to get out my free weights for some feats of strength for the kids.

Well, I have to get back to work. I'm just finishing a lovely pork roast and hoping that someone will bring some buns (bread being so appropriate today). There is always a lovely spread here. We do love to cook - and to eat!

Happy Lughnasadh to you and yours. May life give you many harvests.

Blessed Be.

Happy harvest!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Yikes! What's a fat bomb?

I am a serious low carber and have been in ketosis for six and a half years now, with an occasional lapse. But I feel so bad, both physically and mentally, when I do lapse that it is happening rarely now, since I stick with this way of eating.

A mistake many people make when they try low carb is that they cut out carbohydrates and replace them with protein. Nope, not good! You replace your carbs with fat. Yes, you heard me right - with fat! And hopefully you will stay away from trans fats, and limit your polyunsaturated fats. Go for saturated fat, coconut oil being the number one choice, but butter and lard are not far behind. Try to get organic, or at least grass fed, butter and lard. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil are good, but one really shouldn't do more than a light saute in olive oil. Best leave it for dressings and that big jar of pesto, a staple for us low carbers.

So what on earth is a fat bomb? It should be something that is about 85% (or higher) fat, and 10% (or lower) carbs, the remainder being protein. They are satisfying, especially when you get the post-dinner munchies. They are so filling that one bomb should make most people happy, and you will quit thinking about food.

If you do a search on "fat bombs," you will come up with hundreds of recipes. I'm going to pass on two of them to you in this blog. The first is amazingly simple and amazingly satisfying. You can even indulge in two or three of them. But if you space them apart by a few minutes, you will not want a fourth.

#1 simple fat bomb:

Take two nice fat pecan halves, top one with a slice of cold butter, sprinkle the butter with a few grains of sea salt, top with the other pecan half, and chomp that baby down in one bite!

#2 more involved, but DELICIOUS fat bomb:

I like to make my recipes detailed enough that you are happy with the end products, and not confused while making them. So I will give credit for most of the ingredients for this within the recipe, but the methodology is all mine. It looks a little involved, but it's not. Start at the top with the "mise en place," which just means get everything ready before you start, then start measuring and mixing, and the whole process (once the fats have softened slightly from sitting at room temperature) from start to sliding the tray of bombs into the freezer should not take more than 15 minutes. And with practice, maybe only ten.

Please note the information about Xylitol at the end of the recipe, especially if you have dogs. It can be toxic to dogs, so keep away from them, just like you keep the chocolate away from them, and the potato peels away from your chickens.

All that being said, here is the complete recipe, from mise on place to finished product. Oh, one last note on this one. It really doesn't meet the requirement for ratios of carbs, fat and protein, but it's close. Remember, there is always that pecan bomb. It definitely meets them.

Finished product

Mise en place:
  • Put 10 mini cupcake liners into a mini cupcake pan and set aside.
  • I like to use weights rather than measuring cups, as it is more accurate and faster, so if you have a scale, get it out, and set to grams.
  • You will need a small bowl for the hulled strawberries (weigh after hulling) and a second bowl for the cream cheese and butter.
  • I use a 2-tbsp. ice cream “trigger” scoop for easy measuring. (See picture below.)
  • Get out your vanilla and a one-tablespoon measuring spoon. I love Mexican vanilla. Madagascar is okay, too. For the best taste, don't use artificial vanilla, but if that's all you've got, go for it.
Pan is ready. Trigger scoop for portioning out the bombs is on the right.

Now start measuring!

1/2 cup (2.5 oz or 70 g) strawberries, fresh is best, but thoroughly thawed frozen will do
3/4 cup (5.3 oz or 150 g) cream cheese, softened
2 oz (60 g) butter, softened (If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt.)
1-1/2 tbsp. Xylitol, put in food processor to make consistency of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Put butter and cream cheese on counter for about 30 minutes to soften slightly. Put the softened fats in the bowl of your processor, right on top of the powdered Xylitol. Blend, but don't over-beat. You do not want it to get too soft. Add vanilla and strawberries. Blend briefly. If you chop the berries a bit before throwing in the processor, they will incorporate faster and the batter will be stiffer – easier to measure out into the muffin cups. (You can always set the bowl into the fridge for a bit if the batter gets too runny to scoop out.)

Ready for the final step.
This makes 10 nice sized bombs. When frozen solid, unmold the fat bombs and place into a freezer bag. Keep in the freezer and enjoy any time. I think they taste best if you can let them sit out at room temperature for a few minutes.

Nutritional information per serving:

Carbs, 1.83 grams (14.6% of total)
Fat, 9.56 grams (76.4% of total)
Protein, 1.12 grams (9.0% of total)
Calories 106

I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I started with a recipe from a blog called
LOW CARB, SO SIMPLE.  That blogger got it from a guest blogger, Martina from KetoDietApp. My only adaptation of ingredients were 1) I used Xylitol for my sweetener, as it is one of the healthiest and I like the taste the best of any of them, and 2) I listed my choice of ingredients when given a choice. Go to the original recipe if you want to see other options, because I didn't include them.

However, for the method, I did change it considerably. Mine is a lot easier, and the end product is very nice. You will need a food processor. If you don't have one, then go back to that original recipe, which is linked in this post.

More info on Xylitol – Glycemic Index = 13. Calories per gram = 3. It works a little differently in our bodies and does not affect blood sugar significantly, the way other low carb sweeteners can. It is much sweeter than sugar, so when I substitute, I am quite satisfied using only half the amount of sugar called for in a recipe. If the recipe calls for another low carb sweetener, I reduce the amount by about a third.

It's for an occasional treat – like these fat bombs. Over-consumption can lead to diarrhea, so take it easy on these. One a day will make you happy.

WARNING: Keep out of reach of your pets, as Xylitol can be toxic to dogs!

Susan Siemers, adapted from recipe on Low Carb, So Simple blog
for Devonshire House Dishes

July 25, 2016

Ready to pop in freezer

Ready to eat, with low carb chocolate cookie.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Excitement on Linden Avenue - streets blocked!!

When I got home, with $100 worth of groceries for this week's baking plus stuff for soap room and for a few good suppers, I couldn't get to Linden. All of the turns off Lincoln Way were blocked. I had to overshoot by about four blocks to be able to get down to Linden. There were guys at the blockades on Linden, not allowing me to turn east onto my street to get to my house.

There was a lightning strike that struck a gas line. Fire! It was a mess. I parked as close to my house as they would let me and headed to the house with the bag of cream, butter and frozen shrimp.

I stopped to take some pictures. It's pretty impressive. The guy who moved the baracade for me told me that the lightning struck the ground and went right through the plastic pipe that carries the gas thoughout this neighborhood. They were in the process of shutting down the gas lines so that no gas was fed to the spot where the fire was burning. The fire trucks were very close to my drive and water hoses were in the street there. I couldn't get home.

I snapped a few pictures, got my perishables into the fridge and freezer and headed back to my car. One of the workers told me that they would be moving the hoses out of the way shortly. The fire was contained and all gas lines were shut off. I made it home about ten minutes later.

This all happened almost directly across the street from me. Phew! Glad it wasn't me. My neighbor has a mess - a tree that will be hard put to survive, and grass that is no more.

Nature's power is a marvelous thing.

Fire on north side of street - gas lines not completely shut down yet.
Mishawaka fire department on the job

Dousing the fire - again!
Still going!