Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The hills are alive... with the sound of snowblowers!

It's a snow day from work, yeay!! We had a snow storm move into the Rockies yesterday afternoon. It's was amazing how quickly the weather deteriorated. It was sunny in the morning and then turned cloudy and colder. The snow didn't start until just before 5pm and, by the time I headed home from the office at 6pm, the snow was 3" deep on my car and there were vehicles spinning tires to get up small grades. By 7pm, DIA was down to only one inbound and one outbound runway. It closed completely a bit later.

Here's a photo of the snow on the deck around 10am today. I had to do some shoveling if I wanted to clear an area for Becca and make my way to the bird food to refill the feeders. There was a large conference of birds that were counting on me. Becca was quite relieved to be able to make it to the edge of the deck with an area cleared so she could do her usual camping out to watch the road below. It took 1 1/2 hours just to shovel the deck - it's a heavy, wet snow.
With the dreary sky and day at home, what's a girl to do? Play in the kitchen, of course! I decided to bake a pie. I made the crust using the pastry flour that I milled from pastry berries and it was the first time to try it this way. I had extra dough after rolling out the 2 crusts for the blueberry pie so I rolled it out again and cut circles just like grandma used to do. I put a teaspoon of homemade blackberry-strawberry jam in the center of each circle, then topped it with another pastry circle. I crimped the edges with a fork, just like grandma's, too. I had to try a couple forks until I found one that really looked like gram's circles. I love, love, love baked pie crust. This is a perfect way to use the extra dough and enjoy a special treat. There's a chocolate cake in the oven now - for anyone who doesn't care for pie. Come on by!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Official Food, Inc. Movie Site - Hungry For Change?

Official Food, Inc. Movie Site - Hungry For Change?

Have you seen this movie? If you haven't, and if you're interested in what you put in your body, I highly recommend it. The movie goes much further, though. Are you aware of the genetically modified seed monopolies in the U.S.? Do you know about the horrific actions of some of the largest companies in our country who promote themselves as beneficial but are doing all they can to thwart our food sustainability? Check it out - the documentary is a real eye-opener!

And what about the US Dept of Justice and USDA Workshops that are being held?

Some of us thought the DOJ and USDA were finally starting to be interested in the anti-trust lawsuits being filed against Monsanto and others. We thought there might be some positive movement toward support of independent farmers when the DOJ & USDA announced they would hold workshops this year for "A Dialogue on Competition Issues Facing Farmers in Today's Agricultural Marketplaces" but that appears to be very questionable. Let's look at the first workshop that was held in Ankeny, Iowa on March 12. There were three panels in the course of the day-long workshop. Who were the members of these panels? Let's see...

Panel 1 discussing "Competitive Dynamics of the Seed Industry":
  • Ray Gaesser - V.P of American Soybean Association, among other things. (Did you know the American Soybean Association is quoted and lauded on the Monsanto web site and that 93% of the soybeans grown in America come from Monsanto seeds?)
  • Neil E. Harl, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Emeritus Professor of Economics, Iowa State University; Member of the Iowa Bar - hmm... sounds good, huh? Getting a prestigious Iowa State Univ professor involved? From Iowa State Univ's own web site - "Monsanto Hosting Employee Fund Drive to Benefit ISU Scholarships - Monsanto and Iowa State University have partnered to establish the Monsanto Agricultural Scholars Fund..."
  • Dermot Hayes, Professor of Economics and Finance, Pioneer Chair in Agribusiness, Iowa State University (Another professor from Iowa State University where Monsanto's the good guy?)
  • Diana Moss, Vice President & Senior Fellow, American Antitrust Institute - I hope she got a fair amount of speaking time
  • Jim Tobin, Vice President, Industry Affairs, Monsanto Company - Gee, I'm SOooo surprised
Panel 2 discussing "Trends in Agriculture":
  • Brian Buhr, Professor and Head of Department, Applied Economics, University of Minnesota - U of M does varietal trials of Monsanto seed at their Agricultural Experiment Station and has published a 'paper' promoting the use of Monsanto's RoundUp Ready seeds. Looks more like a paid advertisement to me. Check it out - it even appears on Monsanto's web site at
  • Rachael Goodhue, Associate Professor, Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis - Monsanto offers a Fellowship to UC Davis Biological Science students. Monsanto actively recruits at UC Davis career fairs.
  • Mary Hendrickson, Extension Associate Professor of Rural Sociology, University of Missouri - The school's Life Sciences Center is called "Monsanto Auditorium" - need I say more?
  • John Lawrence, Professor of Economics, Iowa State University - I think we already covered this one
  • Chuck Wirtz, Independent Pork Producer, Whittemore, Iowa - I thought this fellow might be a bright spot on the panel. I was unable to find a lot of information about him but did find comments he made at a Pork Congress meeting on a page peppered with DuPont advertisements. According to LinkdIn, he's an owner in Whittemore Feeder's Supply - a company that, among other things, provides grow finishing of hogs before slaughter, one of the meat production process steps that appears to be non-existent in sustainable, humane pork production.
  • Patrick Woodall, Research Director, Food & Water Watch - OK, I think we found our one bright star on this panel. Check out the organization at
You can find the complete agenda for this workshop, along with a link to a PDF of the proceedings and comments at if you're interested in learning more about this first workshop.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Snowed In? YES! Wait... nope

I know the weather can change quickly anywhere but I've lived in three states and I've not seen the weather changes we have in Colorado anywhere else. Look at this chronology:
  • On Thursday I was home from the office. I sat on the deck in a tank top and shorts and knitted until the winds picked up late in the morning. The winds were bringing cold weather from the north. That, in itself, is unusual for us. We usually get our weather from the WNW or WSW.
  • Snow started after 1am overnight and Friday morning brought slippery roads and many accidents. We heard sirens from our office all day. The snow persisted into the evening and we had 10"-12" in my area. I think my sister reported 18"-20" at her house (higher altitude.)
  • Roads were still treacherous early Saturday morning but then the sun came out and the roads were CLEAR when I drove to church around 5pm Saturday afternoon. I should have taken a photo Saturday morning. I had to shovel a path through a foot of snow on the deck to get to the bin where I store the bird food!
  • Sunday was beautiful, most of the snow melted off the deck and it was tank top and shorts temps again in the sunshine :-)
So what did I do during this fickle time? I had fun! On Saturday morning I visited with my sister on the phone and tried to give her a pep talk to help her dive into doing their taxes. (I found out later I was a total failure in that respect but she had fun too.) Then I spent some time sewing on the quilt blocks for my Tuscan quilt. Here are a few of them and the colors came out kind of close in the photo.

I took a break from the sewing to do a bit of cooking. I was thinking about a way to use up some of the spiral ha
m while I was sewing. I was inspired with an idea for a new dish and had to put it together so I could have a taste before church. I made a creamy white sauce and seasoned it with chopped celery and onions. Then I layered it with sliced potatoes, ham, chopped carrots and cheddar cheese. I topped it off with a bit more sauce and cheese and baked it for 60 minutes. Voila - a tasty dish and the funnest part is that everything came off my pantry shelves in the form of dehydrated or freeze-dried foods except the ham.

On Sunday I sewed some more on the quilt blocks and then baked bread. This week's loaves are sans fruits. The additions this week are sunflowers
and chopped walnuts. It makes a great toast - the flavor of the seeds and nuts really come out in the toasted bread.

I finished the last quilt block in the afternoon. Yeay!! Now they will all be joined by lattice work in a bright Tuscan coral red that will (hopefully) make more of the colors pop. Here's a photo of some of the squares with the lattice fabric next to them. Below the red lattice fabric is the yellow cream fabric that I'll be using
for the backing. A few more weekends and I should be ready to start quilting it. I think I'll do a machine quilting rather than hand quilting so I can get it done. It will live above the mantle of the fireplace in my kitchen eventually. The kitchen is now painted in Tuscan colors that were picked to coordinate with the quilt. Since none of the paint or fabrics came with Garanimal tags, I'm not sure how it will all come together but I'm hopeful it will be fun and happy when it's all done.

These last photos are mainly for Valerie's benefit. She's trying to keep track of anything she needs to bring to the states from India when they move back later this year. I mentioned to her that she should be sure to buy a few of the little bowls that have become my favorite mise en place bowls. I picked them up in India last year for (I think) Rs 47 each (a little less than $1 US.) The bowls are 3.5" across, tapered on the bottom and are made of stainless steel.They're so handy and only about half to one-third the cost of similar mise en place bowls here. I got them at Big Bazaar but maybe you can find them at More!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Birthday & Bread Adventure Weekend

The Birthday Part of the Adventure-
I'm recalling the fun from celebrating my sister's birthday on Saturday and already enjoying the memories. My youngest sister - my "twin separated by birth" (not at birth) is an amazing woman. She is 10 years younger than me and yet we connect in a way that erases the years. Her birthday was this past week and Saturday was our day to celebrate, just the two of us. We started the day enjoying coffee on the deck and soaking up some sunshine. We caught up on our latest ideas and endeavors and then headed out.

First stop, a yarn store. We both had new project patterns in hand and we cruised the store looking for the perfect fiber to bring our patterns to life. I struck ou
t but my sister found just the right weight of yarn and it came in a myriad of colors - a palette had exploded! She talked me into making the same project she had selected (or was it MY idea? I don't recall) and we were drawn into the display to find our colors. We're making lace ribbed tank tops for summer! On Sunday we'll discover we bought hanks of yarn, not skeins. More on that later.

We had planned to go to lunch and then to the movies to see 3D Alice in Wonderland but our yarn foray cut our lunch time short. She had taken me to see 3D Christmas Carol in December and we had perfect seats and a great experience so good seats were high on our agenda for this movie. Move to Plan B: lots of popcorn and movie hot dogs while we staked out our perfect seats a half hour before the start time. Let me tell you, according to the marquee in the theater, these were no ordinary hot dogs. No sir, they were "Black Angus Hot Dogs", quite the fine dining experience after we dressed them with the fancy little packets of ketchup, mustard and sweet relish. We
enjoyed the movie a lot, along with the popcorn!

We traded the lunch experience
for an early dinner after the movie. We spotted a restaurant called "McGrath's Fish House" that was new to both of us and decided to give it a try. The menu had me changing my mind every time I read a new entry. We eventually both settled on a dish with blackened fish in a Cajun sauce with red sweet pepper strips, shrimp, mushrooms, and ham. I think there were a couple small scallops in there, too. After devouring the onion rings appetizer, we both had to request that our dinners be packaged to go... could have something to do with all the popcorn at the movies, huh?

And now to the bread part of t
he adventure-
I mill grain on Friday or Saturday and bake bread on Sundays. I've been experimenting with fruits and nuts. I've been using my favorite bread recipe, not a sweet bread, and I like the subtle sweetness with the extra
flavor and texture of the fruit and nuts. This week I added dried pears and walnuts and it's yummy!

So by now, we've both discovered we bought hanks of yarn, not skeins, and we would need to wind the yarn into skeins. I got out the yarn swift and winder and dispatched one hank of my yarn. Knowing that my sister wouldn't be far behind
once she discovered this little chink, I left the swift and winder out for her. Sure enough, she stopped by in the early afternoon and came into the kitchen saying "so, guess what? we bought hanks of yarn, not skeins!" She worked on her winding while we visited and I finished getting ready a batch of sandwich buns to go in the oven.

I decided I also had a taste for some non-fruit & nut rolls for sandwiches and I found a new recipe online. I used my milled whole wheat and kamut and made them up with sesame seeds on the top. They turned out looking like I know a lot more than I really do about bun making. I haven't tried one yet so I can't vouch for the quality. I sent half a dozen home with my sister and I'm looking forward to that feedback so I know if I need to tinker with the recipe for our high altitude. Here's how they turned out - eye candy to make the mouth water!