Archives for January 2012

Eggs in the Afternoon Light

A rainbow of fresh eggs in the afternoon light.

Cabbages & Kings

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

— Lewis Carroll

Tomorrow I will bid a gleeful farewell to Corn Flakes the rooster. While I had planned on bringing him up to the Agway yesterday, it turns out the Agway is closed on Sundays during the winter.

Lucky Corn Flakes.

Especially since my sister called this morning and has found a home for him! She’s going to come and pick him up tomorrow. He was singing goodbye to me all day long.

Yesterday we cleaned the chicken coop out. Earlier in the day I had been reminded of something I used to do to help entertain the chickens during the long, boring winters by my friend Melissa Caughey over at Tilly’s Nest, which is hanging up a cabbage by a string for the chickens to entertain themselves with by pecking at it; kind of like tetherball for chickens. I bought a lovely green cabbage at the grocery store, screwed a screw right through the core of it, and tied some heavy butcher’s twine to the end of the screw just before I screwed it in tight to the cabbage. Then I went out and screwed the other end of the string into a beam of the goat house porch and went to clean the chicken coop.

When I went out to see what I was certain would be dozens of happy chickens playing cabbage tetherball I saw this:

My stupid goats wouldn’t let the chickens anywhere near the cabbage.

But I fixed their wagons. Once the goat house was all cleaned and ready for occupancy again I tied it up inside the coop where the goats couldn’t get at it.

Sunset in Southport

My son is having tutoring on Monday evenings a few towns away in a lovely waterside town called Southport. As the days get longer, I'm finally getting an opportunity to take photographic advantage of the area while I wait for Evan to finish. Tonight it was just lovely.

Fabric Covered Bulletin Board – With A Twist

I’ve been in the middle of a major office/workspace reorganization and cleanup, which is one of the reasons I haven’t posted too much this past week. I’m almost done, and I’ll show you the terrific results when I am, but in the meantime I wanted to share these fabric covered bulletin boards I made to help keep me organized.

I’ve made a bunch of these over the years, but this time I came up with a new twist: I screwed some sheet metal I cut to size onto the plywood, which makes the top 2/3 (or however much you want) of the board magnetized!

What I love about bulletin boards like these is you can make them to exactly the size that you need. I happened to have the outside of two built-in bookcases available, which will be right between where I plan on putting my new worktable. Because of this available space, the boards I needed to make were long and skinny – 42″ long by 10-1/2″ wide to be exact. I found a cute contemporary floral I loved. That it didn’t go with my curtains didn’t really bother me, as after almost 14 years of living with these curtains I’m so sick of them I could scream.

This is one of those projects that if you’re making one, you may as well just get a little bit extra fabric, ribbon and board and make another one too — give one as a gift, make one for your kids — but maybe that’s just me.

What you’ll need:

  • Plywood cut to the size you need
  • Enough fabric to completely cover your board, so add about 3″ on all 4 sides to your board measurement to get the size of the fabric piece you’ll need.
  • Sheet metal (I got a 12″x24″ sheet of zinc metal at Home Depot for $6.97)
  • Large saw-tooth picture hanger
  • Sheet quilting batting (I used cotton)
  • Gro-Grain ribbon – you’re going to have to measure to see how much you’ll need, and this will depend on how you space your X’s.
  • Fabric marking chalk or pencil
  • Decorative upholstery nails to tack down the ribbon at it’s center-point
  • Staple gun with 1/2″ staples
  • Hammer
  • Scissors
  • Screwdriver

Cut the plywood to the size board you want. Maybe Rachel Garza (my fellow County Living Blue Ribbon Blogger Award winner) and I should get together and do a “women and power tools” ad for Craftsman or something?

I clamped my sheet metal onto the board exactly where I wanted it, drew a line with a sharpie to aid in my cutting, and used a hacksaw to cut it to the proper size. I did this over my sink so as not to get metal fragments anywhere. Clamping or taping the metal to a board just gives it a solid surface to cut on and will make your cutting much easier.

Drill holes in the corners of the sheet metal and screw metal sheet to plywood. My screws were too long, so I used my hacksaw to cut the backs off.

If you are using sheet metal on your board, you’ll need to mark off ribbon placement and drill center hole before covering with the batting and fabric. Use a small drill bit just barely the size of your upholstery nail shank, but drill all the way through to the back of the board, as you’ll need this hole later to find the correct corner spot for the upholstery nail of the front of your board. If you try and drill the center hole once the fabric is on you run a great risk of pulling or ripping the fabric with the drill. As you can see here, I played around a bit with my placement before finally marking it off in 4 equal distances, making it only one “X” wide. If you have a wider board you will cross-cross several times across it.

Mark off ribbon placement and drill center hole before covering with the batting and fabric.

Cut your quilting batting so that it’s about 2″ larger than the wood on all 4 sides. To make sure the magnets still work through the batting, I used a single layer of batting over the sheet metal and a double layer over the plain wood area. Learn from my mistakes — the first one I made I used a double layer over the whole board, and magnets aren’t strong enough to work through 2 layers. Pull the batting tight as your work around the board, stapling the batting to the wood every 5 inches or so. Hammer staples all the way down if necessary.

Cut quilting batting so that there is a single layer over the sheet metal area and a double layer over the plain wood.

Pull the batting tight as your work around the board, stapling the batting to the wood every 5 inches or so. Hammer staples all the way down if necessary.

Now your board is ready to cover with the fabric.

I used some Heat-n-Bond iron on hem tape to give the fabric a quick hem all around. This not only makes it look neater on the backside, but also give the staples more fabric to  hold on to as you are stapling the fabric to the board.

Use Heat-n-Bond to give your fabric a quick hem all around.

Place your hemmed and ironed fabric with the right side facing down on your work surface and lay your board, right side down, on top of the fabric. Starting at the top and bottom, pull your fabric taught, but not so tight that you stretch out the pattern of the print, and using your staple gun, staple it every few inches to the back of the board. Hammer the staples in completely if necessary.

Pulling the fabric taught, staple the fabric to the back of the board.

And now for the ribbon. Using fabric marking chalk, mark the measurements on your fabric that you determined earlier, top, bottom and center “X” of your squares. You can check to see if you’re measurements are accurate by inserting a needle through the back of the board through to the front in the drill holes that you made at the center “X” positions on the sheet metal earlier. Fold ribbon over at the end to double it at the staple point, staple it to the back side of the board. Pulling ribbon tight and sticking to the chalked marking lines, fold ribbon over and staple the end down on the backside of the board. Repeat with the next ribbon to complete the X. Continue as above with all of your marked squares.

Now to put the upholstery tacks in the center “X” of the ribbons. Use a needle through the back of the board if you need to. Hammer in your upholstery tacks. If you find it’s not tight because of the pre-drilled hole, you can put a little glue on the shank of the tack, nail it back in, and put something heavy on it while the glue dries. I had to do this.

Nail on a large saw-tooth picture hanger onto the back near the top of the board, and you’re done!

As a final note, I had these cute magnets that I’d bought ages ago and finally could use, but they had weak magnets that didn’t work on this board. I found these “amazingly strong” magnets on clearance at Restoration Hardware, and glued two onto the backs of the magnets and now they work great. You can find super-strong magnets at lots of places and online if you run into the same situation.

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Art is A Personal Thing

If you're not close to my age or older, you might not even know what this is. It's a sculpture of an old typewriter eraser. The red wheel was made of eraser, and you'd use the rubber brush bristles to brush away the eraser crumbs. That's what I learned to type with - this was before White Out was invented. Anyway, once again proving that art is trully a personal thing, this enormous sculpture of an old typewriter eraser, that stands probably 15 feet tall, is in the front yard of a beautiful estate near where my children go to school. Maybe he's the CEO of IBM or something?

Wet Chickens & Adios Corn Flakes

Well, just like the Who’s singing in Whoville, my rooster Corn Flakes started out his crowing with just a little morning crow inside the coop before I let them out in the morning. Then he started crowing when he was hungry, to now where he’s pretty much crowing constantly. Sunup to sundown that rooster is crowing his little lungs out.

Unfortunately for me, and for him too, that means on Sunday I’ll be carting him off to the Agway where they will take him in and sell him to anyone willing to buy a rooster. A beautiful rooster. A nice rooster. A near perfect example of the image you think of when you imagine a rooster. And I have to hope that he actually gets a home where he gets to live the life of a rooster, and not the life of the prize ingredient in a pot of coq au vin.

My neighborhood zoning regulations do not allow a crowing rooster, and I probably should have gotten rid of him last weekend, but I always tend to put these things off hoping for some crowing miracle to happen. It never does. Plus I have to be away all day tomorrow so he’s going to have to wait until Sunday. I hope a miracle happens tomorrow while I’m gone.

And continuing our pattern of ridiculously weird weather here in Connecticut, today we had torrential rain with temperatures over 50 degrees followed by fog, then clearing along with howling winds.

Most of the chickens I’ve had over the years don’t mind the rain too much, but this bunch I have now don’t seem to care for it. Today though for some reason – maybe they’re just sick of trying to avoid it — they were out in the rain quite a bit. There is nothing more pathetic looking than a wet, muddy chicken. Even Corn Flakes loses his luster when he’s wet.

The feathered feet chickens look particularly miserable when they are wet. Especially in this mud!

And speaking of mud, I’m thinking about renting out the farmyard for some mud wrestling events. It is disgusting out there!

A Breathtaking Sunset

We had torrential rains most of the day today, but around sunset the wind picked up and blew it all away. I could see glimpses of what looked to be a spectacular sunset, so I took my camera down to the beach and got this photo of the amazing sky. It was so windy I had to brace myself against a tree to take the shot!

Baby Moose

Since we’re having spring-like weather here in Connecticut, today I thought I’d post a photo I took last June of a baby moose in Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Indian Fry Bread Tacos

Indian Fry Bread. I hadn’t thought of it in years, but being in Austin brought it all rushing back to me. Austin was full of vintage travel trailers turned into food carts, and one that we saw served savory Fry Bread with all kinds of delicious things on them. Of course none were open for business when my sister and I stumbled across them, but they sparked a memory.

This is one of the first recipes I ever made when I was a kid, and I made a ton of it. It was a bread – sort of, but it had instant milk powder in it and no yeast. Because it didn’t have yeast, you didn’t have to wait hours for it to rise, just a 10 minute rest and it was ready to go. I guess it’s similar to the kind of fried dough you can get at most carnival and agricultural fair midways, but I can’t say for sure since I’ve never tried that kind.

I decided I had to make this for my own kids to try, and thought to use the fry bread as taco shells would be perfect. It turns out this is not an uncommon use for them, as the internet had many recipes to choose from in this style.I really just took the recipe for the fry bread and figured I’d be able to manage the taco part on my own.

Indian Fry Bread

There were tons of recipes for Indian fry bread on the internet, but I really had to search to find one that used powdered milk, which is the way I grew up making it. You can even just eat the bread plain with a sprinkle of seasoned salt, grated parmesan or cinnamon sugar.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk powder
1 cup water + a bit more
4 cups oil for frying, or as needed

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, milk powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir in water and mix until the dough comes together. Add more flour if necessary to be able to handle the dough. On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, at least 5 minutes. Cover the dough very lightly with olive oil and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a large, deep heavy skillet. Oil should be about 1 1/2 inches deep. Put a small piece of dough in the cold oil. The oil is ready to fry when the dough sizzles and becomes golden brown.

I divided my dough into 6 pieces, but these made pretty large taco shells. You could divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a round disc. Use a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/4″-1/8″ inch in thickness. Stack the rolled dough rounds together on a plate and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel until ready to use.

Fry breads in the hot oil until golden on both sides, turning only once. Drain on paper towels.Don’t let the bread get too brown or it will be brittle. Ideally it will be a bit pliable to use as a taco shell, so keep that in mind when frying the bread.

SERVE: top the fried bread with taco meat, lettuce and the condiments you like (sour cream, pickled chillies, guacamole etc.)

Taco Ingredients

Tacos are a very personal thing. People like their own particular brand of seasoning. Some like it spicy, some like it mild. Some like guacamole or sour cream on theirs. Some like cheese. So really, all I will do is list suggestions here. My own family’s personal food quirks dictate what I can and cannot put on our tacos.

What I can say I did was ask to have my ground beef ground coarsely at the meat counter. I don’t know what inspired me to do this, but it was brilliant for tacos of this style I thought. Since I was feeding a family of 5, I got about 1-1/2 pounds of ground meat.

Ground beef for tacos
Taco seasoning (I like Old El Paso with reduced salt)
Lettuce, chopped
Plum tomatoes, diced
Cheddar cheese, grated
Taco Sauce
Red onion, finely diced
chopped olives
Refried beans
Chopped cilantro
Sliced avocado
Sour Cream

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Seeking Refuge

Every time Amanda and I are in Jackson in the winter together we always go out very early one morning and “go hunting for the frosty buffalo”. There’s a story to why we call it that, but that’s for another day. Over the Christmas break this year we headed out early one morning on our quest. This beautiful sunrise greeted us.

Just outside of town we came across this line of elk, all looking in the same direction.

What they were looking at, was a way to get across the river into the refuge where all their friends were.

I’m sure they eventually figured it out.