All Things Andrea

All Things Andrea

Friday, April 30, 2010

Roasted Asparagus


A friend blessed me with some fresh asparagus from her garden today - how wonderful! Roasting is my favorite way to prepare it. Simply place the asparagus on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, toss a bit, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, then roast for approximately 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Yum!!!

Here's the link to the recipe:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Storing Mushrooms

OK, maybe I'm the only one who had trouble with this, but I could never figure how out to store the loose mushrooms that I regularly buy at the farmer's market. I would buy a beautiful batch of mushrooms, only to have them shrivel up or turn brown before I had a chance to use them. I knew you should store them in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator, but they always shriveled up if I did that. Then I tried storing them in a plastic bag, but they would get slimy and turn brown. I started adding a paper towel to the plastic bag to absorb moisture. That helped, but still didn't do the trick. So, last Tuesday when I was at Root's and saw that the mushrooms were exceptionally nice, I asked the gal, "What's the best way to store these lovely mushrooms?!" She said to store them in a closed brown paper bag in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Ah ha - so that's the trick I was missing! I followed her instructions, and a week and a half later they are almost as fresh as the day I bought them - yea!! I love mushrooms!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Stain Removal for Ironstone Dishes


I love Ironstone dishes!
I'm always on the lookout for them at thrift shops or antique malls, hoping to find a treasure at a bargain. I was thrilled to find this particular piece at a local thrift shop last fall - I loved the design detail, but the platter had a few stains:

Then I came across an article in a Martha Stewart magazine about how to clean it. I couldn't locate the link on line for you, but all you do is dissolve a scoop of OxiClean in a container of cool water, submerge the dish, and let it soak until the stains subside (two days for me):



Here's the final result:

I was pleased, especially with the removal of stains around the rim. I think I'll let it soak for another day or so to see if I can completely remove the remaining stains.
(Be sure to wash the dish thoroughly to with your regular dish detergent - you don't want to ingest any OxiClean!)


HOWEVER,


The sweet dishes that came from my mother's side of the family didn't fare so well:



In fact, it darkened the stains instead of fading or removing them. Boo hoo!! They aren't ironstone dishes, so maybe that was the reason? Oh well!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First Spinach of the Season

I always find it a little tricky to make the switch to eating fresh produce after the winter months, especially since I've been trying to save money by eating primarily my own produce that I've frozen or canned. So, when I picked the first spinach of the season this morning, I had to stop and think what to do with it! Then, I remembered one of my favorite ways that I discovered to spinach last spring:


Spinach Breakfast Salad

A bed of fresh spinach leaves,

topped with 2 slices of whole grain bread (Ezekial bread works well, and it's a great way to disguise it if you're not crazy about the texture), brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt or Herbamare, oven toasted, then torn into croutons,

add 2 poached eggs (firmly poached), seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste,

avocado chunks (optional),

salsa

This was actually a recipe for a breakfast sandwich that I couldn't eat without making a mess, so I simply amped up the amount of spinach and turned it into a salad. :) Enjoy!



Sunday, April 25, 2010

Love and Gratitude


This little necklace reminds me to stay in a place of love and gratitude....

First Beach Trip of the Season!


I made it to Cape May this weekend - a last-minute trip with another beach-loving friend. When else would you see 2 lone beach chairs on the sand (can you make them out? - I don't think I had my camera on the right setting) or get a hotel room on the beach for an affordable price?! It was a wonderful introduction to the 2010 beach season - we even saw dolphins!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Those Blasted Rabbits!!


I finally got around to setting out my parsley plants yesterday evening, both the Italian and curly varieties. Suddenly some strong winds blew in; assuming they would be accompanied by rain, I held off watering the plants. No rain resulted, so this morning I went out to water the plants, only to find that THERE WAS NO PARSLEY!! There was hardly any evidence that they had ever even existed - AAAAAHHH!!! The broccoli, lettuce and spinach is still surviving - I guess rabbits prefer the young and defenseless. Bummer! I'll spray some Liquid Fence again, then head back to Root's next week for some more plants! :(

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reliving My Childhood



My nephew just turned 7, so I gave him a potholder loom for his birthday. He was so excited! He loved it and caught on quickly, much to the dismay of his dad who thinks I am introducing him to too many "girly" things. :) (Actually, this isn't girly at all compared to some of the things we've done together!) Through my nephew, I got to relive my fond childhood memories of making potholders - how fun! Sometimes I have to ask myself if I'm getting the gift more for me than him!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quotes Worth Contemplating

"There is more to life than increasing its speed. "
- Mahatma Gandhi
(Country Living magazine, May 2010 issue)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rose Bracelets Intersect with Acupuncture!

This picture makes me smile!!! I had given my CTCA acupuncturist Irina a Rose bracelet last summer as a thank you for all the care she has provided for me. It wasn't until I was lying on the exam table today with needles inserted all over my body that I glanced over and saw the bracelet around the neck of the acupuncture body model. The fact that it was a female body made me smile even more! Irina told me that she had tried wearing the bracelet, but it was a hindrance with her exam gloves, etc., so she found a home for it around the neck of the model. The Rose bracelets have made it all over the world and been given to a wide variety of people in all kinds of situations, but this has to be the most unique scenario!! :)

Chicago at Last!



After numerous trips to CTCA and viewing Chicago only from the air, I finally had a chance to actually see the city up close. How fun! I was surprised by how clean and safe it felt, and how relatively inexpensive things were. We took the train from Waukegan into the city, then did a bus tour. I feel like I now have a good working knowledge of the train and how to get around the city, so I'm eager to check out some more spots the next time I'm there (in 6 months), including the Navy Pier. And, did you know that Chicago was nicknamed "The Windy City" not for the wind but for the politicians and city boosters who were full of "hot air." :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quotes Worth Contemplating

"Don't be hanging out with buzzards."
- Mr. Cody, fellow CTCA patient

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Quotes Worth Contemplating

"I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world. "
-
Mother Teresa
(Referenced by David Ashcraft at LCBC this evening)

Time to Say Goodbye....

Friday, April 9, 2010

Does anyone hate...

... doing taxes as much as I do??!! I just finished mine. UGH!!! I always forget just how much I hate doing them, and slog through them on my own every year, mainly because I refuse to pay someone just so I can fork over some money to the government. But, I just wrote myself a note and tucked it in my Day-Timer for January 1, 2011 that says, "DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER DOING YOUR OWN TAXES THIS YEAR!!!", plus a reminder to get moving on finding someone to my 2010 taxes. I'm guessing you finished yours long ago and are enjoying the fruits of your refund. If so, I hope that's still the case!

Little Mason Jars


Aren't these cute?!  I found a dozen of them at the thrift shop today.  It's unusual to find this size canning jar with a wide-mouth rim.  I love getting this kind of stuff at the thrift shop - I like purchasing something I can use, knowing the proceeds go to something bigger than myself, and it makes me feel connected to another soul who was doing the same kinds of things in another era that I'm endeavoring to do today.

Oh What a Beautiful Morning


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sink Reflections...



I spend so much time at the kitchen sink these days - doing food prep, washing dishes, etc. in an effort to worship the Lord by eating healthfully. Some days it feels insane.... But today, as I caught a glimpse of the hand-knitted dishcloth in the sink, it reminded me that the simplest things are often the most beautiful, and it's often in the common duties that we shine the best. So, I reminded myself of the simple things in my kitchen for which I'm grateful - a pretty sink, a cheerful kitchen, and a beautiful view out my window on a gorgeous spring day.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

And Now for Parsley


I bought some Italian parsley at Rutt’s today. I’ll probably plant the curly variety as well, but wanted to get this variety in the ground as early as possible. It has a stronger flavor than the curly variety, and makes the BEST parsley pesto! I made a whole bunch of it last fall as I was cleaning out my garden; I had tons of Italian parsley left and hated to see it go to waste. So, I looked up parsley recipes on line and found one for parsley pesto. I made a bunch of different variations, before I came up with the perfect recipe. Yum, YUM, YUM! It’s fabulous and freezes well. I have just one container left in the freezer and am saving it for special company, or just maybe I’ll just enjoy it all by myself. :)

Click here for the link to the recipe I posted last fall.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Declaring War...

…. on those rabbits!!! Yes, lots of people think they are cute, but I don’t – I’ve had it! Two weeks ago I set out sweet little lettuce and broccoli plants, only to have them devoured by the resident rabbit, just as they were getting acclimated. I was sitting out on the patio the other evening eating my supper when I looked over at the garden – only to notice that there didn’t appear to be any evidence of a garden! Upon closer inspection I saw that the plants had been chomped off. AAHHH!!!! Why is it that rabbits get away with things that we could call the police about (trespassing, stealing, and vandalism!!) if the culprit had been a person?! What was particularly disappointing was that I was looking forward to an early harvest due to the unusually warm spring weather. Oh well…. I had sprayed Liquid Fence the day I planted, but I’m guessing that the heavy rains that followed watered down the effect. So, I sprayed again, trusting that this will do the trick. It worked great last year, and I was glad a friend had told me about the product. Thankfully the plants seem to be rebounding, so hopefully it won’t be a total loss. I’ll keep you posted!



Happy gardening!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Morning Butter



I finally attempted making butter this morning after wanting to give a try for so long. It seemed like the perfect activity for Easter Sunday morning – the lovely yellow was a wonderful match for the glorious spring weather, and something so luscious and healthful seems so appropriate as I considered God’s gift of hope, renewal and life on this day.  I need to perfect the process (it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped!), so I'll give it another shot and post the details at a later date.

I also made Hot Cross Buns to continue my Mother’s tradition – another contemplative activity for Easter.

Blessings on your Easter!

Update, 7/4/2010
I think I have the process down on how to make butter (it's actually quite simple once you know what to expect!).  Here's the recipe:

How to Make Butter from Raw Cream

Remove cream from refrigerator and allow it to reach temperature of 55-58 degrees.
With a sturdy mixer, whip cream on lowest speed, slowly increasing speed as cream thickens and splattering lessens.  (You may want to cover mixer with dish towel to catch splatters.)
As soon as cream reaches the whipped cream stage, pay attention - be prepared to reduce speed as soon as butter begins forming and yellow clumps start separating from buttermilk.  Quickly turn mixer off when butter clumps into one mass.
Drain off buttermilk and transfer butter into smaller bowl. 
Rinse 2-3 times, forcing buttermilk out of butter with sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until water is clear.
Press water out of butter.
Form into log(s), then refrigerate or freeze for later use.


Easter Egg Fun



The last number of years, my family has been getting together on Easter Sunday afternoon to color eggs.  After we're done, we hide them for my nephew, then eat an evening Easter dinner together.  I'm not sure who has more fun, the adults (including the men!), or my nephew. 




We're always trying new methods - this year's approach was electrical tape!



I'm thinking the adults had more fun than my nephew....  He ended up filming a documentary of the process on his camera and watched it while we continued decorating.


Fun, fun, fun!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pennsylvania Relief Sale


A friend and I went to the Relief Sale at the Farm Show Building this evening.  It was fun to view the quilts - I hadn't been there in years and missed the spring tradition!

Gardening Perspectives

As the years go by, I'm always trying to figure out how to make the upkeep of my landscaping and gardens less labor intensive without sacrificing the beauty they afford.  I go back and forth - should I hire someone to help me?  Should I turn the beds back into grass?  Should I convert the perennial beds into shrub beds?  In the midst of this ongoing thought process, I came across the article "The Long-Lived Landscape" in the April 2010 issue of Country Living magazine, which reminded me again of the importance of continuing to create beauty, even when we feel squeezed by physical and financial limitations.  The aging author tells the following story:
"Violinist Itzhak Perlman was crippled by polio in childhood and walks with the aid of braces on his legs and  pair of crutches.  At a concert...in New York City, one of the strings of his violin suddenly snapped during the performance.  Stunned, the audience held their collective breath, expecting Perlman to stop and leave the stage.  Instead he paused, then continued playing - adjusting, creating, compensating as he went along, and when he put down his bow at the end of the concert, a mighty roar of applause filled the hall.  When it had died down, he spoke to the audience: "You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left."

Sometimes the very things that seem to be squeezing the life out of us are the very things that cause us to create even more beauty.

May God give you the inspiration to create beauty out of your particular hardships!