Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wool Gathering

So, Doug and I are sitting at work today sipping coffee when a coworker comes by to ask a few work related questions. (I am fortunate enough to work in the same establishment with my wonderful husband)

The coworker, who has traveled extensively both in the states, UK and more, gets to talking about a recent trip she made. I asked if she planned to return to Devon England (near Barnstaple) as she’d gone a few times for birthday parties. Doug and I got to reminiscing about our vacation there and what fun we had.



This in turn got me thinking about a little shop in Dunster we contemplated purchasing. Sometimes, many times, I wish we had made the scary leap and bought that place. We were having a great time and stopped into this souvenir shop to buy balsa wood airplanes and post cards. The shop owner said it was for sale and the entire upstairs, same size as the large shop, was the living quarters. We looked at each other, you know the look – it says Could We?????

(The little shop is on the left side down the street)


Tristan was only 10 years old and I remember him saying “I don’t want to go to school on Saturdays!” The thought of leaving our home forever and starting over was very unappealing for him. But it wasn’t unappealing for me and Doug. We didn’t have established jobs/ careers at that time. We had good jobs but were still young enough that retirement investments or the benefits of staying with one employer forever hadn’t really cross our minds.

We could LIVE here! You could see Wales from the shoreline. It wasn’t horrifically hot there as it is in this swamp we live in now. While the appeal factor was very high, we wondered how difficult it would be for Americans to move and purchase a business in England. It would be a major upheaval to move across an ocean. We had dogs back home awaiting us to retrieve them from the kennel. How would that work to bring our pups? Not to mention, there is obviously a slow season with a souvenir shop so…would we have the financial savvy to make it through a slow season?



There are times we bring this up and wish we’d just made the leap and bought the place. Think how different things would have been for all three of us. Tristan’s entire life would have changed, as would ours, and I would like to think it would all be good changes for us.



As we move closer to retiring there are scores of places we want to visit here in the US as well as England (and maybe even Ireland one more time). We’ll just have to see what direction the wind blows us when that time comes.

End of wool gathering.........

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Welcome to a Three Two Blog Tour….

Good morning to you! Whether you are a regular reader or just popped by Squirrel Head Manor I would like to welcome you to a Three Two Blog Tour….

Debra, at Eliot’s Eats, kindly featured me on her Three-Blog-Tour last Sunday. Now it’s my turn to introduce you to sites I read on a regular basis.

As part of this tour I'm meant to answer 4 questions so you can get to know me a little better. I am using the pre-set questions (even though I was tempted to make new questions) so...here goes.

Here I am, still trying to decide if I like highlights in my hair!
You may as well see who you are talking to here :-)


What am I working on currently on the blog?

Debbie in Nevada (who writes at The Friday Friends) inspired me to start a project called Cookbook Countdown. I select one of my cookbooks, pick a recipe, prepare it and write about it. This is an effort to use all my books but has also been beneficial in cleaning out the house. Many of these books have made their way into bags which are destined for a charity shop.

Besides this pet project I write book reviews at Novel Meals. Sometimes, it's a cookbook review or if it's super foodie-centric, I cross post from Novel Meals to this site. Different readers at different blogs.

How does my work differ than others of its genre?

My site isn’t solely dedicated to food. Yes, I do write about food more often than not but I also write about books, wine, our shiba inus, our failed garden and life around this humid swamp we call home. I love to cook but I write about a variety of things.




Why do I write what I do?

I scribble observations, my goals, I vent, talk about wine we liked or a good meal. I just love to write. My first online journal focused on genealogy and some food posts slipped in there. Then book posts appeared. Obviously motivation is needed for me to post but I don’t stick to any one theme/subject.


How does my writing process work?
There isn’t a process. I don’t have plans or an outline. This site is a journal which happens to be in electronic format. I have kept a journal since I was in elementary school and when I started an online version I never in a hundred years thought anyone else would actually read it. My husband reads it but he loves me and is supportive of any ol’ venture I focus on. So, no process.


Now it’s my turn to pick a few sites I follow and introduce you to them.

All the way across the world from me is Sue who writes at Couscous and Consciousness. Sue lives in New Zealand, a place I would love to visit one day.



She is one of the hosts of I ♥ Cooking Club, a yoga instructor and a wonderful cook. I met Sue years ago through a cooking club and enjoy browsing her site for healthy recipes. I love that Sue uses free range, organic and mostly seasonal ingredients in her recipes.

You can peruse her site and find many good recipes but check out this Mocha, Date and Meringue ice cream she made!



Another of my favorite posts include Spiced Apple French Toast and her trip to Greece. If you like to cook with natural ingredients and prepare healthy fare for your family, this is a blog you will want to visit.

Across the ocean in the opposite direction is Lucy of The Pie Patch. She is in England.



I discovered Lucy’s site through my culinary twin Jo (Welsh cook exiled in England). Jo was raving about one of Lucy’s recipes – Chicken Tray Bake – and I just had to try it. We have had this recipe several times since. It’s on our meal planning rotation. Since checking out The Pie Patch I have become a regular reader.

Lucy writes about crochet and has inspired me to start a new hooking project. She writes up dynamite recipes, meal planning posts, budget conscious shopping and living posts, gardening as well as posting on women’s issues (delicate matters :- ). One feature she has is called Lucy's List. HERE is an example of one of her meal planning lists.

Check out this baked gammon she made last December. Makes me hungry.



For any of my UK readers please check out her giveaway for yarn and a nice crochet hook. I can’t enter but as I said, if you are in the UK do check it out if you like crocheting.

That does it for me. I hope you will check out Couscous and Consciousness and The Pie Patch and enjoy their writing style as much as I do. They will be featuring some of their regular blog visits next Sunday.

Thanks again, Debra for featuring my site last week!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wine Wednesday - Conundrum



You don't which grapes are blended, it's not on the label, but that makes it interesting to pick out particular flavors and aromas. It's a red blend from California, a little bit of chocolate notes and a great mouth feel. Pleasant aroma and silky smooth. Long legs too.

We picked this up at Wine Warehouse in Tallahassee and plan to grab a few more bottles. Under twenty bucks and goes remarkably well with a variety of roasted meats and chicken.

Recommended!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Let's Celebrate with a Cuban Meal!
{Picadillo, Plantains and Black Beans and Rice}

What am I celebrating you may ask? Just the fact that it's Friday and payday and I am able to start a new week of meal planning. Friday payday means we do our grocery and wine shopping. But I am getting ahead of myself. The shopping and meal planning is for tomorrow. Tonight we are going to chill out with a nice meal, a glass of wine and a movie. If we don't see a movie at Redbox we'll listen to some jazz, talk and sip a Manhattan or two. Whoop!

Now, here is a meal we may have in this next 2 weeks. I want to share picadillo with you.



Do you ever get tired of making some of your go-to, same-ol-same-ol recipes with ground beef? Do yourself a favor - make a Cuban meal with Picadillo, fried plantains and black beans and rice. We love this version (recipe below) from my sister-in-law Barb's kitchen.

She gave the recipe years ago and we still enjoy making it. Love the olives and veggies and fresh basil in this one. It's even better the next day. Make sure you get yourself some very good quality meat, it can make a huge difference.




Barb's Picadillo

Ingredients......

¼ cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic
1 onion, chopped fine
1 green pepper, chopped fine
1 ½ pounds of ground beef and ground pork mixture
Salt and pepper to taste
A large can tomato sauce (about 15 oz. can)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon basil AND oregano
Roughly a ½ cup white wine
Sliced olives (I use a healing half cup)

Method.......

Heat oil in pan and saute garlic, green pepper and onion. When they are softened add the meat and cook until browned.

I use a spatula to chop the meat up into a fine consistency as it cooks. Be sure to drain the fat out of the pan after the meat is browned. I hold my sauce pan lid tightly over the pan and drain the fat off into a coffee can or any grease catcher you might use.

Slice the olives and add as many as you like, per your taste.....

Mix in the tomato sauce and all other ingredients........simmer a half hour on low to medium heat. Stir occasionally.

We usually serve it over yellow or white rice and with plantains and black beans



Rose goes very well with all these flavors. Can't wait to have it again.

Happy Friday everyone!!!!!!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Bacon Quinoa from The Quinoa Quookbook
{#4 Cookbook Countdown}

Quinoa is something new to our diet. I kept reading about it in food blogs and was curious but didn’t know if we’d like it. Quinoa is pronounced Keen-Wah. Did you know that? Probably most people do but I didn’t. This is a grain I never gave any thought to before but I’m glad I tried it.



Eliza Cross wrote The Quinoa Quookbook and I was fortunate enough to have acquired a copy. We are completely smitten with Eliza’s book 101 Things to do with Bacon so we were curious about the many ways we could use quinoa. Being a fan of bacon we immediately sought out the bacon and quinoa recipe. It’s great!




I used Trader Joe's organic quinoa (a thoughtful gift from the author :-) Rinsed it and then started with a saute of bacon, onion and green pepper.




Bacon quinoa
The Quinoa Quookbook by Eliza Cross

Ingredients....

2 slices thick bacon, cut into ¼ inch dice
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken stock
1 TB minced chives
1 TB chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Method....

Cook bacon until fat has rendered, about 2 minutes. Add shallot and cook, stirring until softened but not browned. Add quinoa and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Cover and cook over low heat for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and stir in chives and parsley.





This is my fourth book in the Cookbook Countdown hosted at Kitchen Flavours.

CookYOURbooks

I am also sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking Series.



Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Life is too short to slog through a book you don't like

I had been looking forward to the very popular bestseller The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The New York Times has this description on their best seller’s list :

A painting smuggled out of the Metropolitan Museum of Art after a bombing becomes a boy’s prize, guilt and burden.



Ok, that description doesn’t exactly make me want to rush to the bookstore but still, I looked forward to Tartt’s latest book. I put my name on the list at the library and was pleased to get notification that I could check it out electronically. Alas, I didn’t pay attention to the icon when making my reservation and received the audio version. I promptly signed up again. I was 70 in line but finally…finally I received the book.

Crushing disappointment. I slogged through a good number of pages before abandoning this best seller. Some gave it 5 star reviews. Good for you guys if you liked it but wow…….. I have too many books on my to-read list to persevere through one that doesn’t grab me. Different strokes, right?

Recently I finished The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, In the Woods by Tana French and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. In each of those novels I was there with the characters.

I felt as if I were in the room putting an investigation together with Cassie and Rob in French’s book. The frustration of our main character in The Weight of Blood was palpable, something to which you could relate. With The Road you can imagine the biting cold, the hopelessness combined with great love between the Man and his son. Getting lost in a story is pleasurable. You don’t want to leave the characters but continue on with their story and travel with them, work through the scary parts, the romantic escapades, the heartbreak.


Reading The Goldfinch I was keenly aware that I was reading.

Well written doesn’t necessarily mean engaging. The characters didn’t grow on me and I was never lost in the moment. Having zero empathy for Theo Decker it was becoming a chore for me to read. I flat out didn’t like him. Rather, I should say I was indifferent to him but as he is the main character, it’s hard to invest in the scenarios and move along in the story with him.

Tartt painted very descriptive scenes but they were overkill. She imparted the idea and set the scene but for some reason kept telling you about three paragraphs later. Ok, ok, got it! This isn’t a book review because I didn’t finish it. It’s not the first book I have abandoned and certainly won’t be the last, best seller or not.

Have any of you read this book or anticipated it? I invite anyone who reads my ramblings (yes, all three of you!) to share your thoughts on books abandoned.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wine Wednesday - Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon

This is one of the better cabs we have had in a while. Love the Foxglove label, the Zinfandel is very good. This Cabernet stands up to any steak, pork or red sauced dish.



We've fallen in love with this label as it never disappoints. Wanting to try the Chardonnay soon and see what else Foxglove has in store for us. A great wine for under $20. You won't be sorry if you try it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Shrimp and Pasta to beat the heat
{Book #3 in Cookbook Countdown}

Earlier this month I talked about a few organizational projects I had going. One of those was culling the vast amount of books I have hoarded over the years.



That’s fiction, non-fiction, biographies and yes….cookbooks. I collect them and have an unhealthy obsession about bringing more cookbooks home. Well, I have a good start on going through the packed bookshelves which spill over in chaotic piles. I pull one book off the shelf and prepare something – then I decide if the book stays or goes to live elsewhere.

The Culinary Journey to the Mediterranean is book #3 in my Cookbook Countdown. This one won’t be put out of the house as it’s chock full of delicious and healthy fare. We’ve had several meals from this one and have enjoyed them all. The Espana Chicken is highly recommended.




This time we prepared the shrimp and pasta. It’s a summery type meal and one we enjoy when the weather is steaming hot. Fall may be around the corner for some parts of the US but not here. Today our heat index topped at 111 F (44 C ) – not fun. It’s certainly not patio weather so our meals have been taken inside.





This is my third book in the Cookbook Countdown hosted at Kitchen Flavours.

CookYOURbooks

I am also sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking Series.



Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.




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