Friday, February 20, 2009

Two, or Maybe Three, Celebrations!

Colorful Balloons decorated the House

Gifts Piled on the Coffee Table

No, not a birthday exactly, but a 1/2 birthday. My 48 1/2 birthday! (That would be 48.5 for you decimal nerdy friends of mine out there.) Yes, we crazy folks out here in the California foothills celebrate every chance we get, and that means celebrating 1/2 birthdays. So yesterday, February 19th, was my half birthday.

We had my half party at Jack's home, adorned as you can see above, with balloons that both men inflated with their manly hot air. No helium this time, but then helium doesn't last as long as air anyway. These beautiful ballooons went home with me and are presently filling my office with colorful cheer.

The guys gave me some nice gifts. Half birthdays are not supposed to be as elaborate in the gift area as full birthdays, but this year I received some very nice and very useful gifts from both guys.

Before we get to the gifts however, you need to see my favorite photo of the night below:

Cake, candles, gifts and curious kitty!

This is my view of the 1/2 chocolate cake (baked by Bob) just before I made my wish and blew out the candles. Notice Jack's cat, Lestat (named for his sharp teeth), in the background being very curious about all of the interesting things that appeared on "his" coffee table. I just love this photo!

So here are a few of the gifts I received for this year's half birthday:

Loaf Pans from Jack

I received 3 wonderful commercial grade loaf pans from Jack. These pans are heavy duty commercial grade metal pans that I will use in my bread baking hobby. I am excited to have them and can't wait to make some time to use them. Notice that I received 3 loaf pans. Just enough for our family of 3. One loaf of bread for each of us!

Cute Mini Cast Iron Skillet

Bob gifted me with this tiny cast iron skillet. I wanted it for a spoon rest or to use for melting butter. It's adorable, and is presently resting in the middle of my stovetop! I placed the wine glass beside it so you could tell how small it is.

A Pair of Excellent Candle/Fire Lighters

I received a pair of my favorite candle lighters. These babies are hard to find in the stores. They are wonderful because they fold up at an angle so that you can stick them inside a deep candle holder without burning yourself. They are great! I will use them all the time. Good for lighting the fire or the BBQ too. Thanks Bob.

I also received a great cast iron griddle/grill that fits my stove or BBQ really well, and a cast iron food press/weight for meats or sandwiches, but I didn't get photos of them. Bob got those for me, and I am so grateful because I had researched them for about 3 months before deciding which ones I wanted. He got me exactly the ones I liked. I will use them to cook magnificent things for us to eat!

Of course my favorite gifts of all are shown in the next two photos:



For this 1/2 birthday party, Bob made me a 1/2 chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting that you saw in the photo above, but here's a close up shot:

Chocolate 1/2 birthday cake~ or what's left of it

Jack made us his famous Picante Chicken with Rice dinner. It was so delicious that we didn't even take the time to get any photos of it. I provided a simple tossed green salad to round out the meal. We had some nice red wine, good food and good company. A very cozy family celebration. Just what I needed since I've been so stressed lately. Thanks Guys!

Now the title of this blog post says that there was more than one celebration to talk about. My half birthday is the first one.

The second celebration is that today marks my one year anniversary of this Mountain Harvest Basket blog! I started this blog one year ago on February 20, 2008. Hard to believe that time has flown by so fast, but it has. So just imagine in your heads the Happy Birthday Song...

Happy Blogiversary to Me!
Happy Blogiversary to Me!
Happy Blogiversary and Thank You to my Loyal Readers!!
Happy Blogiversary to Me!

I am so glad that I started this blog because I really enjoy writing about all of the crazy stuff that happens around here, and I have made such good friends through my blogging circle. Blogging has really helped to keep me happy and sane this past year. Thank you all. I love every one of you.

I will try to think of a fun way to celebrate this one year anniversary of MHB in the next few days. Perhaps I'll come up with some sort of fun give away or contest or something. We'll see how creative I can be.

OK, so that was celebration number 2. There's still one more to go.

The third milestone to celebrate is that this blog post is my number 101! Yes, I am one post late. I should have noticed that my last post was number 100, but I have been very busy lately, so I am choosing to acknowledge and celebrate blog post number 101 instead. Yay! Over 100 postings so far! Wow!

There you have it. Three celebrations in one post. Whew! I am tired now. I just can't party like I used to, I guess.

Love to you all. Thanks for being here and sharing my Mountain Harvest Basket with me.

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket

Monday, February 16, 2009

Woman Does Not Live By Bread Alone

Wheat Bread Loaf #2

...but baking my own bread is very satisfying.

I have made two sandwich loaves of wheat bread in my recent baking flurry. Both of them were made with a combination of White Whole Wheat and All Purpose flours. They came out reasonably well, with good taste and texture and color, but not quite as tall and fluffy as I would like. The white whole wheat flour produces a nice & soft, lighter tan colored loaf. I think I need to either use more yeast or let it rise longer to get the lift I desire in my bread. Or maybe do both.

Baking and cooking is good creative expression for me. It allows me the freedom to design what I want and to make it my own way. Gives me freedom and also some control. I say some control, because my creations don't always turn out exactly the way I want them to. Actually, that's sort of the fun part. A little adventure and surprise in the kitchen. Safe adventure. Just my speed.

I started this recent bread baking because I became aware that I was spending almost $5 per 1 1/2 lb loaf of store bought bread. So I decided that making my own bread would save me some money. It does that. Now I am not sure I can go back to eating store bought bread again. I really like the way my homemade bread tastes. It is so much fresher tasting that store bought. Even when my wheat loaves don't rise as tall as I would like.

It makes great sandwiches and toast.

Slices of homemade Wheat Bread

Hopefully, I will find the time to bake some more soon. I do enjoy it.

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket

Friday, February 13, 2009

Snow Day & Rant

My driveway view as it began to snow ~ 8:30am

My same driveway view about 3 hours later!

My "snow measurement device" showing about 1 foot of snowfall

The day started off cold and snowy, but I was in an OK mood. It rapidly got worse.

I have been very stressed lately. I've had too much on my plate these past couple of weeks. I've had my head buried in legal software trying to help my Dad write up his Will, Trust, Power of Attorney and Health Directive documents. I've had to learn as I go along. Learning what the documents cover, learning how to write them and learning the legal software that I purchased to produce these documents. My Dad lives in another state (Boy, ain't that the truth!) so I have been trying to work out the details of these docs with him via telephone. He is not the most cooperative of individuals, to say the least. He is aggressive and a control freak. He will turn 90 next month, and has never gotten around to taking care of these important legal documents himself, so I am trying my best to help him, and it is very stressful for me. He doesn't understand all of the legal details and therefore he drags his feet on getting all of this done in a timely manner.

Meanwhile his doctor, the social worker, the home health company and the Adult Protective Services people are all trying very hard to shove him off into the nursing home of their choosing without regard to my Dad's wishes or even mine. I learned today that APS has had a case file open on my Dad for several months now, but not one time in all those months have they contacted me about it, and they have no excuse for that since they have all of my contact info from the last time they got involved in his life and mine. I am so stressed about this that I have been sleeping even less than usual lately. It falls to me to defend my Dad, protect him, watch out for his best interest and now I have to explain everything to the social workers and APS people as if I owed them reports or something. My Dad does not really grasp the seriousness of his situation. I am trying to intervene between him and the APS folks so that I can help him move into better living conditions that will make him happier and healthier. He resists all change and wants total control over everything, even though he cannot handle it himself anymore. He just doesn't realize that I am trying to help him and if he would just get out of his own way we could get the things done that he needs to get done. Arrrgggghhhh!!!

I am very frustrated and many times I have considered just throwing in the towel. If he would just cooperate with me and trust me, I could help him so easily and things would just fall into place to make his life better. But no, he has to over control everything and make everything so difficult, as if the social workers and APS people weren't making life difficult enough already.

Sorry folks. That was my rant for the day. I just really needed to get that off my chest for a few minutes. I am near tears almost all the time these past few days and I just couldn't hold it inside any longer.

What's all of this ranting got to do with my Snow Day pictures I am sharing with you? Nothing, except that I have been cooped up in my house all day dealing with this stuff because we got a foot of snow dumped on us this morning over the course of just 3 hours. The white sparkly stuff is very beautiful, but it does disrupt normal activities. I was supposed to receive a stress relieving massage today, but I had to reschedule it since I was snowed in here and couldn't drive anywhere today. Yesterday, I had to reschedule my own massage clients due to snow as well. So I am cooped up, stressed out, lacking money and needing a massage. Bah!

I was right in the middle of being creative in my kitchen this afternoon, making meatloaf in the oven and chopping up fresh veggies for homemade chicken soup on the stove, when I got the call from the social worker about my Dad. Totally blew away my cozy snow day mood. I was trying to have a little bit of time to myself and feel good in my kitchen. Not meant to be, I guess.

So I built a nice fire in my woodstove to keep the house and me warm today.

Nice warm fire

My kitties know how to get comfy and relax:

Frieda by the fire ~ she wouldn't face my camera

So I guess I just need to take life one day at a time and try my best to remain sane in the process. Some days, like today, I just want to run away and hide from the world.

Thanks for listening. I hope you at least enjoyed the pictures.

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Winter Carrots

Spring Planted, Winter Picked, Carrots

Well, not actually Winter carrots, but Spring planted carrots that I left in the ground until now. I had been meaning to dig up the carrots for awhile now and finally got out there to do it yesterday when I was out there "heeling in" my new blueberry and raspberry starts. (A story for another day.)

They keep well in the ground through the winter months and continue to grow and mature. Unfortunately though, starting in late Fall they start to flower and go to seed, so those carrots that go to seed start using up all of their taste and nutrition to supply the seeds with nutrients for the next generation. Those carrots may become very fibrous and not good to eat. The carrots you see in the photo above were the ones that did not produce seeds, so these should be fine for use in soups and stews. They won't be as tender and delicious as new baby carrots are, but they will still be good eating.

Just look at the huge specimen on the far right of the photo! Wowee! That one is short and very fat. These are Nantes carrots and I did leave them in the ground a little too long. They are not at their best when they grow that big. I give the chopped up carrot greens to my chickens. They are delighted with a nice green salad treat in the middle of winter.

I think I may turn these carrots into carrot soup. Seasoned with ginger. Good hot soup full of beta carotene to ward off winter colds. Now I must find my recipe for that...

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tea and Cup Wisdom

Green Teas & Honey ~ No, not contraband!

Just a quick post to let y'all know that I am still here. This past week has been one of the more hectic ones, so this post is fitting in that it shows one of the little pleasures that I have had time for even in the busiest of times.

The above photo shows an old favorite and my new love in organic loose leaf teas. The jar on the left contains organic Gunpowder Green Tea. That's the old favorite. Its leaves are tightly curled up into little grey-green balls, I assume resembling the look of gunpowder, and it brews up into a strong, sort of musty cup of green tea, depending of course, on how much tea is used and how long you let it steep. It gives me a good kick-start in the mornings. I tend to just put a couple of teaspoons of loose Gunpowder green into the coffee filter of my automatic coffee maker and let the water pour through it to make a very nice, very easy pot of morning tea. Works great, although it doesn't sound like it would, does it?

My new love, is shown in the little custard cup on the right of the photo. That is organic Jasmine Green Tea. I have tried many jasmine flavored teas over many years, and so far, after just one cup, I proclaim this one the very best. The runner up jasmine tea was one I found about 20 years ago that had little white jasmine flowers in it, but it was expensive, kind of hard to find and not labeled organic. Now this jasmine tea is still quite expensive. It retails for about $36 per pound, but a pound of tea lasts a very long time. This is top quality loose leaf organic green tea in my opinion.

Both of these teas were purchased by me from the Frontier Naturals company. I am a retailer who sells Frontier Naturals products and their sister company products (Aura Cacia and Simply Organic) so I do have access to their wholesale quantities and pricing. From time to time I personally sample new products with the idea of adding them to my product inventory. These wonderful green teas have impressed me with their taste and their exceptional quality, so I will definitely consider adding them to my inventory. The only hurdle is figuring out some nice packaging to be able to offer smaller, more affordable quantities of tea to my customers. Not many would want to buy a whole pound of loose leaf tea, I think.

These teas have brought me comfort and pleasure, and I'd like to be able to offer the same things to my customers. Any ideas from you all on how I could package a few ounces of tea that would be attractive, sanitary and convenient for my customers?

One more thing to share with you before I go back to my busy work week:

Starbuck's Cup with Quote

This is a photo of a cup that I got at our local Starbuck's Coffee house last night on my way to class. I rarely go into Starbuck's since I pretty much stopped drinking coffee about a year ago, but I still had a bunch of funds left on one of my gift cards, so I thought I'd better go spend them before they close our local store, which could happen any time now if you've been watching the national news. I bought a tea drink that was very tasty and took it to my computer class with me. During a lull in the class activities I happened to notice that my cup had a quotation on it that I read and really liked, so I am sharing it with you today. You can click on the photo of the cup and read the quote directly, but here it is below to make it easier to read:

"The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you you're not good enough. On occasion, some may be correct. But do not do their work for them. Seek any job; ask anyone out; pursue any goal. Don't take it personally when they say "no" - they may not be smart enough to say "yes". "

~ Keith Olbermann

I find that the universe reminds me of things that I may already know but have forgotten, right when I need to remember them again. I find quotes like this popping up, books falling at my feet, people I haven't heard from in ages, songs that have a message all presenting themselves to me right when I need to hear, see and know them the most.

They are little reminders to me that we are not alone in this life. We are all connected in some way.

Enjoy your quiet moments. Drink your tea or coffee or glass of wine. Ponder life in all its intricacy.

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket