The Smell of Beauty

For me the smell of pines invokes so many memories.

For me the smell of pines invokes so many memories.

The other day I went for  a hike in  the high country expecting great vistas.   The trail  was high enough that when I could peek through the trees the sights were breathtaking.   But those vistas were few and far between as most of the hike was tucked in between rocks and great forests.    But I wasn’t disappointed because this hike had a different kind of beauty…  the beauty that smell invoke.

Beauty is usually associated with a visual experience.   Smells can bring back many beautiful memories.   They cause your brain to immediately paint a picture  with that first whiff.  The brain’s picture is a combination of all the times that you smelled that aroma, painting a perfect picture; picking bits and pieces of each experience with that smell and creating the best of the best memory.

The walk with the hot afternoon sun cause the resins of the pines  to create an overwhelming smell of pine.   It brought back memories of summers at the lake.  That memory gave me such a good feeling that everything seemed right with the world.  Not only could I smell the pines of the lake, but I could also hear the waves on the shore.    I could hear the winds in the red and white pines tall above the cabin.   I could feel the coolness of the cotton sheets on my bed.    I could see the sunset across the lake.   When I let myself embrace the smell of the pines of Montana, I could close my eyes and I was transformed back to the shores of Pike Bay in Minnesota.   I was a perfect moment of time travel that only the smell of the trees could give me.

33 Years and counting!

A friend of mine has been blogging about lasting committed relationships, marriages.   It made me reflect a bit on mine.   I have been married to my husband for  33 years today  and been with him for 36 years.  People grow and change  so much between their 20’s and their 50’s.  What makes some relationships last and others not?

I think first and foremost a last relationship is based on people with the same core values.   Your core values must be fundamentally the same.  I am not saying that you have to be the same in how you get to your destination.   In fact, it is more interesting if the you see the method to achieving the core values differently.   I love the mental challenges of a debate.  I love it when my husband plays devil’s advocate challenging me to look at things from the other side, and questioning my methods.  It drives me nuts when he will argue a point of view neither of us hold, because he likes to jerk my chain and see me explain how I got to my position.

Second you need to want the best for the other person in a relationship.     Our wedding vows stated that we wanted  each other to become all that they could be, and we support one another in that quest.   It wasn’t what you  wanted to be, it was that you could be. That is a pretty tall order.  In your 20’s you think you know what you want to be, but you will change and evolve struggling to find your destiny through out the years.  Sometimes we think we know what our spouse or partner should be or we want them to be.  It takes great faith to allow them to find themselves and evolve.  To stay together through that evolution that you did not sign up for that is part of that vow of wanting them to be all that they could be.    What they can be in the 20’s will be a long way what  they will need to be when they get to their 50’s.  This is that time that the core values support you as things change and yet the core values are still the same.

Lastly  you  need to be your own person but be one half of a whole.   I find that to be an oxymoron as I write it, but if you have it you know exactly  what I mean.    It is sort like you  need to like to spend time together and  just as importantly you need to spend time apart.     Too much togetherness  or too much time apart can be damaging.   I love to spend time with my spouse, but also crave that time that we spend apart.   He likes to do somethings I can’t imagine doing, and I don’t care to try.   I have some friends he can’t figure out what our connection is, but one of the friendships is nearly 20  years old and isn’t going anywhere.   Those differences are what we bring to the table and makes us together better.  We like to do lots of things together, and are always looking to find new ways to spend time together in ways  that don’t involve sitting in the same room watching TV.  Being together is a state of consciousness not a state of physical proximity.  It does not mean all the things we do together we like equally, it means that we like each others company and want to do them together.

I don’t know if this is really the magical answer, but it has work for 33 years for me.  It is what love has been.   It is what love is for us.

Indoor Water Fountain – on the look out

I am planning to make my own indoor water fountain.  I have looked at all the ones I can find in stores, which are not too many and everything I can find online.    I am generally turned off by the fact that most of what I am interested seems to be molded plastic to look like ceramic, rocks….you name it.

Simple a bowl, some glass blobs and an ivy plant

I also am quite sure that this is not going to be  cheaper to do it yourself option.    However I am also sure it will end up with a fountain I like better than what I can find.    There will likely be flaws and things that I learn in the adventure to do differently the second time around.

I have done bought a used book on the construction of indoor fountains on Amazon.   It was $4 after shipping.   I can get lots of information online, but with a book I can take notes and write things down as I find better ways to do things or clarifications.   I am hoping I really do well on the first one planned for my office.   If so I would like to make one for my studio space and my bedroom.

Could I duplicate this with a plate and a gazing ball?

I am on the look out for the perfect base for this fountain.   I am not sure if it is a large flat bowl, and flower pot.   It might be the bottom of a bird bath.   I am open to the possibilities.   I know that my pump has to be submerged, but that is all I am sure about at this moment about pumps.  I think I want it tiered and have experience drilling through ceramic  and porcelain so that makes some of the ideas simpler or at least less foreign of getting tubing up and through all my finds.

If I found something like this I would snatch it up right away. It might work excellent with a collection of pottery bowls I have.

I will share my adventures in the quest for making a fountain with you.   Right now I am scrounging thrift stores, close outs and garden centers looking for what might make a good base.

Lessons in Yogurt

On the way to strained yogurt

On the way to strained yogurt

I have read on the internet about folks making homemade yogurt and how easy it is.   I was definitely interested.  I really did not like the grocery store options.   I hate  the sort of gelatinous texture found in large commercial operations.   I also thought that if made my own I might be able to get my husband off of his sour cream addition.    I knew that there was something out there better because I have experienced it.   Occasionally when I get to a Greek place in a nearby big town buy their Greek yogurt.   If you have never had real strained Greek  yogurt you are missing, not a mass thickened by stuff produced the major companies  marketed as Greek Style yogurt.  My husband who is addicted to sour cream and has been putting it on everything will use this instead gladly with no complaints.   It is the only substitute he will agree to after 35 years of being addicted to sour cream.    It was time for me to stop buying yogurt and making it from scratch.  My goal was our own strained yogurt.

Like all of us today I was  getting my information for the internet.   The first thing I learned is that much of our yogurt today has an assortment of thickeners added.    My aversion to that texture was starting to make sense.    I was looking at labels much more skeptically.      I found a recipe that sounded easy and made a small batch, my top two criteria.   I made my first batch.    It was a flop.   I was sure I had done something wrong, so tried it again, making a couple of adjustments.    Once again I had a milk mixture that sort of had a hint of yogurt taste, but was no thicker than whole milk.  I was  determined to find out what I was doing wrong.   I started looking at bloggers who posted about making  yogurt.  I shared what I was doing and  asked questions of the experienced yogurt makers.    I was looking for an answer.   I got what I thought was good coaching and advise and I tried again.   No luck again.     This was getting expensive and I was not sure how many times I wanted to beat my head against the wall.   Time for a break and a different approach.

I was going try to strain my own yogurt.  Here are some of the reasons I gave myself for trying this:

  • Getting rid of lots of the whey in yogurt  takes out some of the sugars (aka carbohydrates), and boost the protein and calcium (both of which I struggle to have enough of in my diet).
  • Whey is a acidic and getting rid of it also give a yogurt a different taste.
  • Removing whey may make yogurt tolerable for folks with lactose intolerance since lactose is found in the whey.   Sometimes as I have aged I have found I don’t tolerate dairy as well.  (This is also why Greek Style yogurts that are just thickened and not strained don’t have the same effect).
  • My chickens love getting the whey so nothing goes to waste.

I planned to start with  the very best yogurt I could find.   To me that meant it would contain milk and cultures, nothing else if at all possible.    I wanted it to be  local product  if possible.     I got lucky and found something with milk, dried milk and all different kinds of live cultures.   It wasn’t a Montana dairy, but it was a regional coop of farmers.      It was pricey but at this point giving  my pilot batches of yogurt to the chickens rather serving it on  our dinner table the price seem irrelevant.

There are lots of ways to strain yogurt.  People use all sorts of things from coffee filters, muslin, cheese cloth, and the list goes on.   I first used muslin and cheese cloth  in a food mill, but it wasn’t working for me.   I had no room in the refrigerator for the large contraption.   Left on the counter top my house smelled like a dairy.   The washing the bags, I was never sure they were clean enough.   My second choice was a contraption sold specifically for straining yogurt.     First it was reusable, no single use parts.   It can be washed in a sink or dishwasher. It has a design that allows the maximum exposure to the strainer with the smallest foot print.   It has a container that catches the whey, the liquid.    I have been using this now awhile and it is the way for me.

After straining yogurt  for the summer  the verdict is in.   My husband has without my prompting said as long as I strain yogurt like I have been doing he no longer “needs” sour cream.   I am eating more dairy (aka calcium).   The time commitment is negligible.  I still have near heart failure when I buy my good yogurt, but short of making my own this is the way it will be.   I am now thinking about yogurt cheeses.   I don’t expect them to replace a good aged cheddar or Gouda, but possibly some of the softer cheeses might just work with this.   I might even buy some yogurt cultures and try making it again.   I will keep you posted.

My Taste Treat

Last weekend we joined friends at a restaurant that featured cuisine from countries that you might have found if you traveled the silk road. All menu items were served tapas style/size;  each item a size to allow four people to each have a couple of bites.

It was  a great time.   The conversation and laughter flowed freely.      It was made better by the fact that we were all willing to try things that we had not had before, or  would not normally have ordered.   It was a free for all taste treat.  No holds barred.

We tried three wines, and settled on a favorite and then ordered a  bottle for our dining accompaniment. We started with three items that may have been more  along the appetizer line.   Unanimously we agreed that we liked our humus to be heavier on the garlic.   That was the worst thing we said about anything all night long.    It was doubly fun in that each round we picked 3 or 4 things we had not yet tried on the menu.   When we were done we had tried 14 different menu items.     At no time did anyone speak up and say I don’t think I would like that.   We ordered  and let the chips fall where they may.

I am not traditionally a fish eater.   Yet I ate and enjoyed three fish dishes.   For me the item that I will remember as a taste treat was the Tuna Tartare.  It was also the dish I was most unsure of, almost to the point that I wanted to speak up against it when it was ordered.   I am so glad I did not.   I loved it.   I would gladly order it again!

It was a reminder to me about  my life.   You don’t know until you try!  Limiting yourself you can miss out on some life’s best experiences.   Amazing how a dinner can dish up a life lesson.

Three Kinds of Salsa

In my last Bountiful Basket I got the Mexican add-on.   It was full of peppers…cayenne, jalapeno, green bell  and Anaheim.  It also had onions,garlic, tomatillos, lemons, limes and avocado.  It was a mystery box that screamed salsas to me.

salsasI made three different  fresh salsas.

One red tomato salsa.   I used tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro, green pepper, some jalapeno (first roasted in the oven to take the hot edge off) and a slice of cayenne.  I had some ground ancho chili and added some of that for depth of flavor to complement all that freshness.

One fruit salsa with mango,  I make my fruit salsa heavy on the fruit.   Unfortunately the peaches were not ripe enough to be sweet so it was exclusively mango.   I pureed some of of the three peppers with some onion and cilantro.   I chopped mango, some red bell pepper, some of the roasted jalapeno,  and onion.   I mixed the chopped mix with the puree and then pulled the secret ingredient out of my cupboard….chipotle powder.   I think fruit salsas need something to balance out all that sweet fruit and one of my favorites is chipolte.   The smoke and heat is the perfect balance to that sweet of a mango.

The third salsa classic salsa verde.   I am not sure of another way to fix tomatillos, but it was perfect with the pepper I had received.   I added some onion and cilantro and it was ready to serve.

My avocado was not ripe when I made all my salsas.   The day we were finishing up our salsas, the avocado was ready to be mashed and made into  guacamole.   I had been a good week of eating in our house.


Thawing Turkey in the Refrigerator

I put a frozen turkey in my refrigerator on Sunday and on Friday it was still frozen.    Everyone now days recommends that you thaw turkeys out in the refrigerator.   Based on the weight the consensus was that it should have been thawed by Tuesday.   Let me assure you on Friday it was still frozen.   Agh!   I planned to put in the electric roaster Friday at noon and serve it for dinner that night to guest.  I was wasting gallons of water trying to thaw it out in the kitchen sink in time.

All my life growing up and most of my adult life turkey was thawed out on the kitchen counter.   I am not sure what caused a changed and made the counter method no longer acceptable.   I never remember anyone betting sick from Thanksgiving turkey or the stuffing inside it.  We practiced good clean kitchen technique and food handling.   It isn’t to say sickness was not possible,  but we were careful and smart and it worked for us.

Whoever everyone is that recommends that refrigerator method, I have tried it now a couple of times and can tell you it isn’t working for me.   I am going back to the kitchen counter and lots of common sense for my next turkey dinner.