Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How Little It Takes To Make Me So Happy

It's time for a little learning session here on Aunt Mildred's Porch, so sit down and listen, while I tell you a story.

I recently had jury duty and though this is like the 7th time I've been called for jury duty, never have I served, I dreaded it with every ounce of my being.  It's summer, I have no patience for idiots who get themselves into trouble and I was raised here and teach here, so I probably know a lot of the people involved in any cases going through my local courthouse.

But, being so thrifty, I didn't want to pay the $2000 fine for skipping out, so off I went.

Barnstable Courthouse is a pretty cool looking building and very imposing.  Go look at this link if you want to see a picture and know more about it.  I thought the judge told us it was the oldest courthouse in the US but I've since checked and that is not at all true, so I must have misunderstood.

He had a Boston accent, I didn't want to be there, he reminded me of someone I used to work with and the AC felt so nice, I have no idea what most of what he said actually was.  I was too busy looking around.

It's sure not the courtrooms we see on TV and in movies!  This looks like it must have looked for the past 100 years, with just a few additions for modern times.  I'm sure that clock is original!

And since we were sitting in what basically are pews, I wasn't surprised to see the choir loft up back!

I can't even imagine who sits up there.  The jury panel is off to the side of that first picture and this balcony is directly opposite the view of the books in that same picture.

Something about this rug cracks me up.  It's more like a has been restaurant floor than what I imagine a courtroom to be!  I picture courtrooms to be sterile but this was far from it.

The ceiling is the best part.

The judge said it was handpainted, and original, but I was surprised to see that even with the new recessed lights and other items in the ceiling, that "original" paintings went right over them and incorporated them.  Maybe they are based on the original?   Something tells me the original painters in the 1800s didn't leave space for the future can lights and chandeliers that would one day be in the ceiling!

Anyway, I don't know any architectural terms, but this lovely rotunda-like thing over my head was intriguing because of the fish. 

Here's the learning:  that's a cod.  As in Cape Cod, where Barnstable Courthouse is located. 

The story, according to the judge, is that the cod was originally put on a train as a figurehead sort of thing, but it was in the way, so they cut it off.  Someone deemed it ideal for the ceiling of the courtroom and lo and behold, here it hangs this many decades later.    They incorporated it into the seal of Barnstable County and it's on everything related to the county.

And a judge wouldn't make up a story, right?

So, after we were talked to by the judge and made to watch that excellent juror video that everyone must watch, we were escorted to another court building in the complex because no jurors were needed in Superior Court that day.  The judge told us that the day before, they had impaneled people for a THREE WEEK TRIAL!  Can't you imagine! 

I would have been arrested on the spot if I had been part of that group because I would have caused such a disruption in public at the very idea of being locked in the courthouse for what amounts to just about the last month of summer!

That's the first little thing it took to make me happy that day.  That I had missed being part of that circus by 24 hours.

Once we took our field trip across the complex, we were put in a very fancy juror room.

Fancy for 1970.  Top notch.  For today?  A basement.  And it really is a basement.

We had to sit there for about an hour, with a couple of loudmouths who knew everything and talked like they were out in a windstorm and had to yell to be heard.  The rest of us sat there, eyes glued to books and screens.  I actually knew two of the potential jurors.  One is a colleague and one is a former student who I had in homeroom and also took to Quebec and France.  She's now a junior in college.

See, small town, fat chance I would be able to be a fair and unbiased juror!

So what's the second tiniest little thing that made me so so so happy?  The guy coming in and saying you can all go!  It was only 10am, so I hadn't wasted a day sitting around for no reason.

And I was on a such a high, I came home and ran.  I thought the sun was going to stay in for a little while longer, but it came out bright and hot as I ran, so I pretty much melted right into the pavement.  This was all that remained.

Now I'm off the jury duty hook for the next three years.

And I didn't even get to to say "lock up all the little effers and send me home!"

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Grilling Pizza for the Feint of Heart

When you hear about grilling pizza, you probably think it's a great idea and then tremble a little at the thought of how it all works.  I know I do.

I always envision the crust sort of dripping through the grates.

I tried it a few years ago, when everyone was making such a big deal about it but I didn't like the result so I stopped trying.  I can't remember what I didn't like, I just know it wasn't fabulous.

I wanted pizza last night, but it's been so hot that turning on the oven wasn't really in the cards, so I googled how to grill pizza.  I found some fantastic advice, so I thought I'd share it with you because it made life really easy and we liked how it came out!

RULE #1:
The most important thing I read is that you have to have everything ready before you even start because it's all so quick.  If you have to run back into the house to get sauce or toppings, forget it.  You'll  have crispy nothingness if you leave the grill for even a second!

Since I knew I was making smaller pizzas than usual, I brought out a lot of different things to try some different combinations.  I couldn't resist using the amazing basil I have growing right now and that tomato in front is a very smooth, not disease ridden tomato from my garden!  I've had such a problem with some illness in my tomatoes for so long, I had no idea how nice it is to pick a tomato and not be sad because it gets brown spots within days.

I always make my own pizza dough, but you could use store bought dough.  Make sure it's thawed and room temperature so you can stretch it and shape it.

RULE #2:
Even if you like thin crust, you can't make it too thin because it will cook way too fast and become too crispy.

RULE #3:
Heat.  This was a hard one for me.  I had a grill for a while that was way too hot and it was always a game of how fast I could move things around before they burned, so using the highest heat on my grill always worries me.  However, this advice was just right.  Heat your grill on high and keep it pretty high throughout the process.

My grill isn't fancy enough to have direct and indirect heat options, but I read some things that said direct heat is best.

RULE #4:
Unless you want to run your grill forever, which I do not, have your topping plans already in mind.  Once you put the dough on the grill, it's a 5 minute process from start to finish, so be ready!

So, here's what I did.

I made a small crust, brushed it with olive oil so I  could lift it off the rack, put it on the grill and brushed the other side with oil.  It took no more than 3 minutes to get a little brown and start to have grill  marks, so I turned it over.

Immediately, I put the toppings and closed the cover  for a second while I made the next crust.  After about another 3 minutes, just as the cheese was starting to melt, I moved it to the top rack that I have, which is where people usually cook hot dogs.  On my old grills, these were always really chintzy and fell apart from rust but this one seems to  be good metal that doesn't rust.  This way, I thought the cheese would full melt but the crust wouldn't disintegrate from the heat.  I left them up there while I cooked another one or two and they didn't overcook.

The recipe that I use for the crust usually makes 2 medium sized pizzas.  Sometimes more if it's a stretchy day.  We usually have one or 2 pieces left.

This way, I made 5 smaller pizzas from that same recipe and we had one whole one left over.  Perfect for lunch.  K-ster said he preferred the smaller small kind, like the one above, to the medium smaller kind.  I do too because if they get too big, they are really hard to move with the toppings on them.  One that I made almost fell apart as I tried to move it to the top rack because the cheese hadn't quite melted to glue everything on top.

I can't imagine doing a regular sized pizza this way.  If I tried it, I might use a long spatula to flip it and possibly a couple of spatulas to take it off the grill when it's ready.  Once the toppings are on there, it gets pretty heavy!

I used regular tongs to move the crust around and it didn't even think about sticking.  I'm not sure if using the olive oil was necessary or if my grill is pretty good about releasing anyway.  I might try no oil on one next time.  I try to use as little oil as possible when I cook and if we use pepperoni or sausage as topping, there's plenty of grease for us on top anyway!

This was a big hit and I'd do it again.  I was trying to decide if this is something I could pull off with people over.   I would definitely need more dough but I think it would be fun with guests.  They seemed to stay warm for a while so it wasn't like the first one got cold while I made the others.

Give it a try.  Embrace the grill.  Cook on high.  Get ready to move quickly.  And enjoy the flavor and the neat way the crust comes out!

But, most of all, remember to be organized or it will be a disaster!!

Linking here:

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Big City Quilt Debut

When k-ster's niece got married in May, I decided it was time to try a pattern I've had my eye on for a while.  I follow http://www.aprilrosenthal.com/ on instagram and when I saw her Big City Quilt, I knew I had to make it.  I can't tell you what struck me- probably the octagon pattern- but I loved it from the beginning.

I bought and downloaded the pattern and was shocked at how simple it was.  The hardest part was suffering through  making all of the HST (half square triangles).  The only part I really don't like about them is drawing that stupid line down the center.

I decided to go with a grandmas fabric stash kind of feel.  Sort of lights and pastels.  No reds, but lots of everything else.  I noticed in one picture, there was a sprinkling of blackish fabric throughout, so I wasn't too worried about using a few darks in mine.

It all came together really well, but I had a mental crash over trying to get the corners of the octagon to line up just right.  I fiddled and winged my own way of doing it and I'm sure there's some smooth and fancy way to get it right every time, but everyone assured me what I was doing was right.

I did the twin size with the intention of not adding a lot of borders because I want it to be more like a throw than a blanket for a bed.

It was just big enough that I needed to either piece two pieces together or try one of the large fabrics meant for quilt backing.  My Joann fabrics doesn't have much in the way of choices for the 108  inch fabric, so I had a lengthy debate about what to do.  I hate fabric waste, and piecing was going to end up with a huge back that would mostly be cut away because it was juuuuuust too big for one 44 inch piece.

So, I went with a white back.  None of the other choices really worked and I thought the white would continue the light color scheme.  I loved using the one large piece on the back so there was no back seam and shifting around as I quilted.

It was small enough that a twin size package of batting was perfect!

When I machine quilted it, I ran into a very small snafu at one edge and needed to cut the border back before I bound it.  Which I completely forgot about and happily cut up a bunch of fabric for the binding.

After I had sewn on one and a half sides, I remembered the need to trim that one edge and at the same time, realized I didn't have enough fabric for the binding.  That was a shame because I really liked the way it looked.

So, off it came and I selected the only fabric that I had a lot of.

By the way, I realize that in this picture, it looks like I think the binding and the orange in the block match and I want you all to know that I absolutely do NOT think they match!  I thought about this when I posted it on instagram!  One is soft salmon and one is bright peach!

Also, I've been using the clover binding clips lately and love them.  I don't have enough, so I had to use some pins and I have to say that my favorite part of the clips is not getting poked or getting the pins stuck on things.  The only place I feel like I still have to use pins is in the mitered corners.

Sadly, I chose the nastiest, muggiest, hottest days we've had to quilt and bind this one, so I had no choice but to finish the binding in the hammock!  She got married in May but I didn't even start this until afterward, going with the get it to them within the year rule.  I've never done that before, but I had no time beforehand.  I knew if I didn't do it when the mood was striking, I'd never get it done!

I am a one trick pony and I did my signature wavy line quilting.  I did it a little narrower than I have in the past and I really liked it.  I think this was the easiest one to quilt so far.  I made some changes to the set up in my sewing room and I quilted it on the width, so it was a shorter distance for each line.

The colors are not quite as dark as they look in all of these pictures.  The ipad isn't the best at getting the colors right, but I like how it all came out.  I like the randomness of it, but at the same time, I also think this quilt with each octagon in the same colors would be really neat.  No one else I've said this to agrees.  I guess that means I'll have to try it!

I also thought doing a super dark background (where all of the white is) with light or white octagons would be really neat too.  This pattern will be around for quite some time, I think!

By complete accident, the periwinkle matches the blue in these flowers so well, it almost makes me want to make a whole quilt of just those!

Just another intersection I wanted to share.  The green in the top right is a swamp scene that I think is hideous as a large piece, but with small pieces, it had so many colors, it goes with everything.  I used it for a purple and green quilt that I made years ago and didn't realize I still had a nice piece of it left.

All of the material in the top and binding was from my stash!  I don't know what it says about me that I have that much in my stash.  And plenty more to make another one.  I don't have a huge stash.  It all fits in two of those things you hang in your closet to store sweaters.   I have two hanging on a rack and organize my cottons by color.  To me, a stash would be shelves and shelves of a million fabrics that are not organized in any way!

I don't have any quilts for myself that I've made, and I'm suddenly thinking I might need one of these for my living room!

I really like the way April designed this and would definitely make another one in her collection.

Linking here:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Indulging In A New Obsession With My Crockpot

When I went to see my sister a-ster in May, we had something called pho one night.  Pho is a Vietnamese soup that is so good, I couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks after I ate it.

What I liked about it is the way it was served.  You get the broth by itself, with all of the other ingredients sitting out and you add everything to the bowl yourself and enjoy it.  This keeps the vegetables really fresh tasting and still green, instead of looking like they've been cooked for hours.  And everything remains fairly crunchy.

When I got home, I still thought about it, but I don't know anywhere around here that serves such a thing.  I remembered that I had a recipe for it once, but it asked for star anise and I didn't know where to find such a thing in our local stores, so I gave up the idea.

I googled some recipes that seemed pretty straightforward, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to get it to taste like it should.  Nothing is more frustrating than getting excited to eat something you've enjoyed before and then you try it and it's  not quite the same.

Then I sort of forgot about it!  Until the other day, when my sister posted a picture of beanster eating pho and the obsession started all over again.

It turns out, it's not hard to make at all!

I used some of this recipe here, but I altered it a little bit.

My biggest dilemma was the anise.  I couldn't find star anise, but I found a few references to using anise seed instead.  I used 3 t. of anise seeds instead of 10 star anise.  I held back a little because k-ster doesn't like the taste of anise so I didn't want to totally ruin it for him the first time.  I would definitely use more next time.

I have an issue with cloves and cinnamon, so I used just a dash of both.

I didn't have fresh ginger, so I used about 1 t. of ginger.  I could have used more because I didn't taste it at all.

I also used scallions, which this recipe didn't call for, but several other recipes did.  I think they are essential, but be sure to put them out with the other stuff to keep them crispy.  Putting them in the broth when it's cooking would kind of ruin it.

I used some spinach, not 6 cups, instead of bok choy and I only used basil, not all of the other herbs she mentions at the end of the recipe.

I had already cooked a whole chicken, so I didn't need to worry about how long it all cooked, which was good because I didn't start this until about 3:30.  I put the broth and spices in the crockpot with the chicken for about 3 hours and then removed the chicken.  I added the spinach and noodles and let it go for about a half hour. 

Arrange everything in the bowl and then add broth and noodles.  Sadly, I didn't get a picture of it with the broth, but you get the idea.

It tasted soooooo good!  I didn't use the lime when I had it at my sister's but I did last night and it was good.  I need a couple of wedges to get flavor.  And when I first put the basil in mine, I didn't use enough and needed to add more.  This was directly from my garden and I was so thrilled to use it.

What I love about pho is the ridiculous combination of flavors.  Who would think anise, basil, lime, cinnamon and cloves should be together?  It's like every bite is a mix of all of those flavors.

K-ster also added some ground habanero that we have from his crazy pepper growing experiment last year, but I refrained.  I remember there being a pepper in the mix when I had it before, but I didn't use it then, either.

I made this on a very hot and humid day.  I put the crockpot outside, as I am known to do, and it kept the heat out of the house.  Soup on a hot day was kind of a strange choice, but I thought all of those light tasting ingredients might make up for it.  And it did!

The scariest part of this recipe, and every recipe I saw, was the fish sauce.  I knew it was going to smell deadly but I wasn't really prepared for how bad it would smell.  In the jar.  Once it was in the broth it was fine and probably added the saltiness that I seem to enjoy on in pho.

Now I have a jar of fish sauce in my refrigerator and I have no idea how else to use it.....


Monday, July 27, 2015

How We Cookout

It's July and that must mean it's time for the annual cookout recap.  Or the Bauer BBQ, as I like to call it.  You'll have to click here to see why.

What started the year of my father's retirement party as become just a cookout, nothing fancy, but something everyone expects to do every year.

My sister comes from Maryland, my brother in law's family all comes for it, and there's always a variety of my parents' friends, my friends and my sisters' friends.

In fact, this year, someone drove up while we were well underway and even though I didn't recognize him, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he was a friend of someone.  Turns out, he just wanted to pay for another night in the campground, but if he had just walked up and had a kabob, no one would have asked.

For a while, anyway.

Speaking of kabobs, it's a law that we can't have this Bauer BBQ without my kabobs, so I made chicken and steak as always.

31 steak and 27 chicken kabobs.  With yellow squash from my garden.  I had to buy onions, mushrooms and zucchini this year.  Vague recipe here.

As exciting as our cookouts are, that is not a zipline in the picture above!  My uncle put up the colored ball lights you see below and then strung the extension cord across the other side.  All night, I kept thing I should just jump off the deck and zipline right across.

The required Corn Hole game was played until the mosquitoes took over.  In fact, thanks to the mosquitoes, the Bauer BBQ ended quite early and quickly this year.  Usually, we clean up all of the trash but leave all of the tables and everything out until the next day.

Someone said "help clean up" and people were running around dismantling the whole thing  until everything was put way except for the palm tree lights and the fancy scallop shells and colored balls.

Everyone was gone by dark.

There was nothing wildly exciting or catastrophic, so I don't have much to report.

I do, however, want to share my favorite picture of the night.

I call it "A Solemn Ceremony For Flushing A Goldfish".  Not because there was a goldfish involved but because I imagine that's the kind of scene you'd have for such a thing.

I have no idea what was going on.  That was the dessert table.  Someone must have been giving them a tour of the desserts.  It was clearly the most solemn and fascinating event of the night and everyone had to bow their heads in tribute!

Linking here:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Growing Corn In My Home Garden

I remember hearing that you can't grow corn without chemicals.  I always thought that was ridiculous because everything I grow remains chemical free and I figured I could try it with corn and see what happens.

One year, I think it was before I started my  blog, I grew corn pretty well.  They grew, made an appropriate amount of kernels and nothing got into them.  I remember eating them at two different meals. 

So, I was sure I could grow corn from then on, chemical free.

And then we had this debacle a few years back.

So, I vowed to stop wasting my timing growing corn.

But, in garden #2, the fence is much higher, so I thought I could outsmart the critters.  I thought it was raccoons that ransacked the cornstalks last time, and this fence is higher and flimsier, so I didn't think raccoons could clamber over it. 

 I planted the corn away from the fences, in the middle, where I thought maybe they wouldn't bother going.

Things have been looking good in cornland.

I was surprised to see tassels already out and the corns looking sort of ready in their husks.

Yesterday, I noticed that the tassels had disappeared on a few ears of corn.  Odd because usually, you wait until the tassels turn brown and then the corn is ready.

This morning, I went out to check on things, as usual.  My garden has been super slow, or so it seems, so only with the recent 90 degree weather have things started to really take off.

I say this every year and worry and then it turns out August is ridiculously plentiful, so I really shouldn't be concerned. 

I guess I just hate the waiting for almost all of July!

Everything looked good, as usual.  My favorite times in the garden are early in the morning, before the sun starts baking, and just after supper, before the sun goes completely down.

And then I saw this.

And this!

And I was heartbroken!  Something came in and knocked down a cornstalk and then stripped off the husk and nibbled all over one ear of corn.

Wondering if the others are actually ready, I pulled off one ear, but this was all that came.

I only have a few ears left because I didn't plant many since this was an experiment to see if I could avoid animal interference.  Because I didn't plant many, they didn't pollinate all that well, thus the many blank spaces.  Corn has this weird thing about needing every tassel to be touched by pollen in order to make kernels all over the ears, and if you don't plant a lot, in rows that almost touch, then that won't happen.

So, my dreams of a nice dinner with some homegrown corn have been dashed for this year.

I'm not going to pull out the remaining stalks because I still want them to be there to support some climbing beans that I planted, but I'm seething with rage thanks to what I imagine must be a very content squirrel.

Linking here:


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How To Be A Sailor or Just Talk Like One

Here on Aunt Mildred's Porch, we do a lot of talking about crafting and cooking, but sometimes I just can't help teaching you a little something.

Today, I'd like to teach you 3 words so you too can be a sailor or at least just talk like one.

I think everyone is familiar with the term MAYDAY, which one says when one is sinking, in a plane falling from the sky or in some other dreadful situation where help is needed.  STAT.

I have known for a long time that the term mayday is actually from the French phrase m'aider which means help me.  I believe the entire request is pourriez-vous m'aider, meaning could you help me.  It's pronounced "mayday" thus the spelling in everyday sailor English.

You might have known all of that, but did you know the other two radio calls that sailors use?

One is securit√©.  No, not security.  Securit√©.  From the French, meaning security.  But pronounced SECURITAY.

Not so much a distress call, this term is often used when large vessels like ferries or big ships are entering or leaving port.  Over the radio one hears "SECURITAY SECURITAY SECURITAY" and everyone knows that they should prepare for a large ship going one way or the other.

This is the phrase that made me write this post.  We live pretty close to the ferry to Nantucket and many times, if the wind is blowing the right way, we hear the big whistle of it coming or going.  The other night we heard it and k-ster said it was coming (or going, I forget which) and when I asked how he knew the difference he said "because if it it's going (or coming, I forget which), they say SECURITAY SECURITAY SECURITAY over the radio 3 times."

I fell right off the couch.  K-ster is no speaker of French and to hear something come out of his mouth sounding French, but also sounding suspiciously like a character on Southpark is enough to make anyone wet their pants.

I didn't believe him, of course, because why would any sailor be using not just one but 2 French terms over the radio, so I asked my father, who spent his childhood around boats and a few years in the Coast Guard.  If anyone should know distress calls at sea, it should be him.

So, I casually went next door and said "oh, what do they say when a ship is entering (or leaving, I forget) a dock? "  There was a bit of a pause because I was on the deck and he was inside and I couldn't see his face.  K-ster was nowhere around, so I he didn't have any cuing.


I don't think I caught my breath for 5 minutes, I laughed so hard.  My father is even more ridiculous when trying to speak French and sounds even more suspiciously like a Southpark character.

NO WAY, I said.  There is NO WAY non French men are yelling SECURITAY over the radio like that.  Except maybe Eric Cartman.

So, this prompted an extensive google search by father and daughter which also revealed one more distress call.


Again from the FRENCH!  This from en panne, meaning broken down, which again, I knew by the sound of it but could not imagine this was really true. This is delivered in a very staccato method, like dots in Morse code.

Nowhere near as funny to hear my father say because it didn't sound too French, but amazing to me that 3 radio calls are of French origin.

So, the next time you're on a ferry coming or going, listen to the radio and see if you hear SECURITAY uttered 3 times.  And if you hear either of the other calls, I'd say get your life jacket on and pray.

Linking here: