I love roast lamb or would that be mutton? Let's just say I like roast flesh of sheep. Today, at the store I see a nice piece of meat in the Manager's Special section for $2.22. Cool! I'll buy that. Mmmmm lamb shoulder chop. Ok never cooked that before. Wonder if I can roast it? Well, play dates, phone calls and getting hubby off to work ensued and roasting never happened. So I browsed a few websites and got a general idea of how to cook a lamb chop. Pretty easy. Marinade it, season it or otherwise spice it up. Heat a skillet smokin' hot and sear the lamb chop for 3-4 minutes per side. Easy enough. I can do that.

So I start the big heavy cast iron skillet to heating. The door bell rings. It's my neighbor. She's come to bearing gifts for the children. Thank you! Back to the kitchen. See hubby off to work. Is that the door bell again? Yes, it is. Back to the door, where I find my neighbor again with yet another item. Cool! Thank you again. I really am going to get dinner cooked. The skillet is definitely smokin' hot. I haven't seasoned the lamb chops yet.

With scissors in hand, I dash out the door. Ok, I was not running with scissors. More like moving slightly fast with scissors. I rarely run with anything these days. My knees object at the very thought of running. Why was I headed out the door with scissors? Rosemary. There's a big bunch of it growing just off the front porch. It's a nice hardy variety that has endured our coldest winter and hottest summer. Rosemary, coarse salt and pepper sounded like the perfect seasonings for the lamb chops.

So I pour a little oil in the smokin' hot skillet and rip open the lamb chops. I'm sprinkling salt, grinding pepper and trying to keep the skillet from bursting into flames. The lamb chops are finally in the skillet when I realize that I didn't add any rosemary. I quickly strip some leaves from the stem and sprinkle them over the lamb chops. Ahh the beautiful sound of sizzling meat.

They sizzled their way to a wonderful smell. Time to move the lamb chops in the heavy cast iron skillet to the oven. I forgot to open the oven door before engaging the heavy two-hands necessary skillet. So I park it on a pot holder until I can open the oven door. I slide it in but don't like the way fat is still popping around and producing smoke. So I set it back on an unheated burner and move onto the potatoes. After the fat has calmed down, I slide it into the oven. No smoke this time. No fire. A calm dinner will be achieved.

Fast forward to serving time. The children have been called down. The potatoes are finished. The meat has now rested nicely in the oven. Gravy. Gravy would be nice with the potatoes. And best would be gravy with the rosemary flavored pan drippings. So out comes the heavy, two-handed cast iron skillet. But it doesn't want to leave the oven. The pan hangs on the rack. That's odd. Just then I notice that the pot holder is underneath the skillet. Apparently the potholder couldn't handle the heat of a red hot, smokin' cast iron skillet.

My cast iron skillet is still sitting on the counter downstairs with a pot holder adhered to the bottom. I can't decide whether to soak it off in the sink or to build a fire in the fireplace and complete the incineration process. By the way, the lamb chops were delicious and both children ate their portion. Success...minus one burned potholder.

Blue Monday

Monday is rolling around. If anyone reads this at all, they probably won't be reading it until Monday. I'm just a little blue. Last week there were winter storm warnings flying all around the place. It's coming in on Saturday. It's coming in on Friday. It never came in at all. I'm all prepared. I've got extra milk...powdered if it's needed. I'm stocked on food. We have a wood burning fireplace and plenty of wood. The storm fizzled out about an hour away from us. Nothing, nada, zilch. I didn't get my snow/ice storm. I'm a bit grumpy about that fact.

While there was no snow down on the valley floor, it was snowing and blowing quite a storm up on the mountain.


Where do we get inspiration? I'm always inspired by a great craft tutorial that I'm sure I'm going to make. I even get so far as buying the materials. Then life happens and I have to put things aside. Just this week, I've bought fabric and cut out a skirt for my daughter. Here it lies beside me, a sad testament to life's ability to keep me from creating. Yesterday, I spent a bit of time out in the cold weather seeing to a neighbor's broken pipes. No, I didn't fix them. Just used the phone to track them down, call the water company, rouse the troops to shut off the water. Now, I'm behind on the cleaning and decorating for the party. It was inspiring to help a neighbor. Helping feels good.

When I started writing this, I thought I was going to write about how music is inspiring. But maybe my real topic is how helping people is inspiring. Maybe the topic is both things. I've always wanted to write a story about a neighborhood or cluster of houses band together in really, really hard times. Maybe this is the start of that story. I just can't seem to get a plot going. So maybe it's not the story for me, yet.

Today, I'm having trouble with this topic in my writing exercises. I read one blog that spoke of thinking "that could be a great story" during the day while listening to friends, the news, etc. It does seem at times that the brain works better when the hands are busy at mundane tasks. So I think I'll go work on the decorating. If inspiration hits, I'll come back and write some more.


That's the topic for the writing experience today. Perhaps it is appropriate for the survival minded. Indecision can kill, plain and simple.

I'll cop to a slightly embarrassing story from last winter.  We like to snow shoe. The deep, deep snow up on the mountain, they are necessary. It gets cold up on the mountain. It is often in the 20s with blowing snow. So we take our backpack stove along  to heat up food and make hot chocolate. This is a small stove the folds up and is heated by a can of jell fuel much like they use in the catering business. The outside of the can and, of course, the folding stove get hot.  We stick in the snow for a bit to make sure they are cold before they are packed away. Trips to the mountain aren't just about snowshoeing. The children like to go sledding. We acquired a bright orange toboggan at a great price. It works well. The kids have fun.

So now we've got a fuel source, lots of fluffy winter clothes and a bright orange toboggan in the back of the Equinox. I'm driving down off the mountain. It's one of the better days. It is not snowing. We've reached the lower elevations where the road is bare but wet from run off. It's late in the day and the sun is beginning to set. When I drive, especially in snow or ice conditions, I worry about the people behind me as much as the people in front of me. I check the rear view mirror a lot. I check my mirror and see an orange glow filling the back of the vehicle. "We've got fire!" Luckily, we were on a straight-away with no ditch on the right. As I skidded to a stop, I gave orders. "Out of the car on Ana's side!" That was the side away from the highway and near the forest. The kids were wearing long johns, they'd taken off their snow pants and their boots. By the time my husband and I were out of the car, headed to the back, the 4-year old had unbuckled and was opening her door. My oldest, at 7 was still sitting buckled in her seat.  She was indecisive, in spite of receiving instructions.

To my relief and embarrassment, we realized that the fiery orange glow in the radiating off the ceiling and sides of the car was caused by the sun reflecting off a bit of the orange toboggan. We quickly stopped the youngest from stepping out into the snow in her stocking feet. The oldest was more interested in what we were doing that removing herself from her seat. So we had a good laugh at my mistake but it was a good fire drill on acting in an emergency.

Indecision. It can be a killer.

Experiment in Writing

So I'm going to try a little experiment that will hopefully get me writing more. I'm going to write something everyday. It might not be on the topic of hard times or food or survival. Who knows what I'll write about? At least, I will be writing. Writing is always better than seeing my entry from September 4th just sitting there boring you.  I'm going to start now.

Why do I write?  I used to think I had something different to say. Something that was important for people to read. But after a few Google searches, you discover that most things have been said and said and said. There may not be that much new to say. I may also be totally wrong about that point too. There may be many new things to say. I just haven't thought of them yet. But there is the point. Maybe by writing more, I'll think of those new things to say.

I used to write a lot. I would write about a life that I imagined. It wasn't necessarily a happy, won-the-lottery life. It was just a different life. I also used to write tech books. Very dry, step by step books that would walk you through using software to keep track of all those important people in your life. It was was my first published book. It was money above and beyond my job at the software company. I was a writer!  I have a photocopy of my first check in a drawer somewhere. Actually, or sadly, I think I know exactly which drawer and file folder contains that photocopy. That makes me sound super organized. I'm not. I am so not the super organized person. My documentation was organized. My office was and still is stacks of papers. They are organized and I know which stack contains which items. I'm trying to develop OCD to help with the housework and organization. So far, that idea isn't panning out.

I used to write some really personal stuff. Now I'm much more guarded. Maybe it's because employers have their HR departments busily searching the web for information about potential employees. Guarded and writing don't always go together in my opinion. When you try to be perfect, you get distracted from the flow of ideas. Stream of consciousness can be a terrific writing tool. So tonight and in the next few weeks, you might not like my writing very much. I might not like my writing very much. You might not learn anything useful. But I'm going to write.

I write because I must create. I must create something. My hands must be busy. I used to crochet a lot. My eyesight isn't as good as it used to be. I found I didn't enjoy crocheting as much anymore. Counted cross stitch went the same way. Sewing requires the sewing machine and can disturb the sleeping husband. There are also small children who being ultra curious creatures kept trying to stick their fingers into various parts of the machine while I was sewing. I made paper Christmas ornaments and sold them one year. I enjoyed it. It's where I acquired the name, The Ornament Gal. However, I think people in sweat shops in China were making more money than people wanted to pay me for my ornaments. So creation is a part of me.

What is one of the least expensive creative endeavors to start today? Writing. What do you need to write? Paper. Pen or pencil. Not very expensive. Sure, writing on the web is fun but I still like writing things out long hand. I write most of my recipes out in spiral bound, hard back notebooks. Of course, that leads to me not being able to find my recipes easily but they are much more permanent that way. I like writing with fountain pens. I like the scratchy sound of the nib on the paper. I'm not totally fond of some of the ink stains on my fingers but it doesn't bother me too much. I like being able to flip through a notebook and see that I've filled four or five pages with words and thoughts. They may not make any sense to anyone but me. But I did something on the day that I wrote those words. I thought something. I felt something and I wrote it down.

The sinus medicine is beginning to make me drowsy so I think I'll stop writing today. I plan to write again tomorrow. Even if it's just for five minutes. Do you think sinus medication, scissors and tulle will go together? I want to make a tutu for my daughter's Christmas present. Perhaps tomorrow I'll write about 'less is more for Christmas'.

Tomatilla Salsa

Last night I was cooking grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. Why waste that space around the sandwich. The bag from the CSA Farm included some tomatillas. There were 6-8 of them in various shades of green. They were still wearing their papery wrappers. I rolled them around the edges of the skillet. They cooked in spots. All the cheese sandwiches were finished so there was a nice hot skillet available.

I removed their wrappers and tossed them back in the skillet. Meanwhile, I pulled out a banana pepper, took a tentative bite and declared it mild enough for the sauce. It was chopped and added to the skillet. Please note that I'm not following a recipe for this salsa. I did read a recipe the other day but didn't commit it to memory. Normal salsa uses tomato, onion, pepper, cilantro and a few other things. Next, I grab a small quarter sized onion from the bag, peel and chop it. Into the skillet it goes.

This is salsa so it needs a little heat. With kitchen shears in hand, I head out front. It's almost dark and the porch light doesn't do much for seeing into the leafy depths of the jalapeno plant. I pick by feel, judging the size of the peppers with my fingers, moving from pepper to pepper and deciding on four. With their stems held between my fingers, I maneuver the kitchen shears to clip them free. No fingers were lost during these maneuvers.

Inside, I decide not to detour to the garage for gloves. I'll live dangerously and seed the jalapenos barehanded. That went off without a hitch. The girls decided that they wanted bananas with their sandwiches. The bananas must be sliced. Not a problem, I grab the knife and starts slicing. Later, I hear that the bananas are spicey. Ana wants her sandwich reheated so I toss it into the microwave....the bananas are still on the plate. She later proclaims that her bananas taste like cherries...OK.

So now the skillet contains tomatillos, jalapenos, onion, banana pepper. At some point, I picked out the whole tomatillos and chopped them. Once they started cooking, they began to turn that salsa verde color. Things began to dry out a little in the skillet. I grabbed a lime and squeezed half of it into the skillet. Salt and pepper were added. I turned off the heat and let it sit while I enjoyed my slightly cold cheese and Canadian bacon sandwich.

The salsa is still in the fridge. The right food will be cooked eventually for it to accompany.

I'm beginning to understand the cooking style of my older relatives. There were rarely cookbooks out unless they were baking. It's finally occured to me. Cooking really isn't about recipes. It's about technique. Once you know how to cook things, you don't really need recipes because you can make those up as you go along.

Something Like a Frittata

Morning. Breakfast. Five dozen eggs on my counter. I like to buy eggs in bulk. $4.95-6.99 for 5 dozen at the restaurant supply warehouse. Sure beats $3 a dozen at the grocery store. I like having my eggs for breakfast. It's hard getting the eggs in the fridge because there's a bag of mixed veggies: baby eggplant, banana peppers, tomatillas, etc. I've got some new red potatoes on the counter. Hmmm maybe a frittata of sorts.

First, I slice the potato thin and put it in a nonstick skillet sprayed with some cooking spray. Next a banana pepper cut in half lengthwise and cut into little half circles. A small quarter sized onion gets chopped and added. I let those cook for a while and beat up a couple of eggs. In hindsight, two eggs really wasn't enough egg for this mixture. Three or four would have been better. The beaten eggs were added to the mixture. I kept shaking the pan to make sure it didn't stick. It didn't. Success so far.

Now I need to flip this over and get the other side to cook. Now if I'd used a skillet that had an oven safe handle, I wouldn't have had the next little adventure. I'd have just popped the whole thing under the broiler for a few minutes and it would have been done. But having the skillet with the plastic handle meant other methods of flipping. So I slid the whole thing off onto a plate. That worked well. Next, I put my skillet over the plate...here's where things started to go not so well. I'm trying to hold the plate and skillet together. A larger plate would have helped. They were too close in size. The skillet burned my finger, half of the frittata slipped out from between the plate and skillet and fell on the downdraft exhaust. Only a slight mess, it was mostly cooked.

So there's my quick take on a frittata.

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