Friday, July 30, 2010

The Friday Five

July is a busy month for our family celebrations. Our five celebrations include:

1. The Fourth of July. Besides celebrating Independence Day, we also celebrate the day my father lost his independence more commonly called my parent's wedding anniversary. They were married July 4, 1943 and this year celebrated their 67th anniversary.

2. The Eldest's birthday. She turned 22 this year. She will graduate college next year with a degree in biology. God willin' and the crik don't rise.

3. The Young One's birthday. She turned 18 this year. Since I knew she was going to be delivered by c-section, I got to pick her birthday. Sort of. My obstetrician  told me he only did c-sections on Tuesday. I could have had her on my birthday, but thought she would probably like a special day of her own instead of having to share.

4. My birthday. By now, no one wants to see another piece of cake, and I wish I had chosen this day for The Young One's birthday too.

5. The annual clan gathering on Himself's side. Cookout, volleyball, gossip, and more cake. Good times.

What month do you do most of your family celebrating?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Besides looking through books for inspiration, Ink and I find it helpful to paw through my scrap paper box.  Fondling the paper, looking at the colors, inhaling the paper scent all help to spark ideas.

Where else do you get your creative ideas from?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wed Letter Day

Catching up. Used Canadian calligrapher, Ruth Booth's, Scrapbooker's Alphabets for inspiration.

What books do you use to inspire your creativity?

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Friday Five

Five reasons why I am late with this blog entry:

1. I couldn't think of  five things to use for a blog topic.

2. I couldn't wake up this morning. Well, that's not quite true. I woke up at 4am. Decided it was too early to be up so I went out to the sun room where it was cool and sacked out in my chair. I guess I just got too comfy.

3. When I did finally wake up at 8:30am, I couldn't seem to get out of first gear.

4. Then my dad called. He's 91 and  usually calls me a couple two or three times a day. Most times he's just looking for a buddy and a sympathetic ear.  Today the call was to go over his finances. I've taken over paying his bills.

5. The computer is in slow mode today. It took forever to boot up. And programs take forever to load or I get not responding messages. I took the computer to the Geek Squad last week to have it tuned up. It ran well for a couple of days and now seems to be tuning down. I'm starting to hate Vista.

How's your day going?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Home-Made Ice Cream

I'm not a huge fan of ice cream, but every once in a while the urge strikes, and I have to have some. With The Young One's birthday this week, and the wicked hot weather we've been having, I thought it would be fun to make some ice cream. Only problem no ice cream maker. I went on a hunt through to see if there was an easy ice cream recipe that didn't require an ice cream maker. And guess what? I found a couple and decided to give the Five Ingredient Ice Cream recipe a try.

The recipe is a basic vanilla ice cream. Uses heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk as a thickener. The heavy cream is whipped to stiff peaks. One thing I didn't do before I began whipping the cream was to chill the bowl and whisk. I have a stand mixer and the mixer can output some heat which can cause unhappy things to happen like turning whipped cream to butter. I was lucky and didn't run into any problems.  This time. Note to self: next batch chill the bowl and whisk.

The nice thing about a plain vanilla ice cream is you can add whatever you like to it. I added some frozen sliced strawberries and chocolate chips. The ice cream had a wonderful smooth texture. Very creamy and not grainy. Looks like most of the goodies settled to the bottom, but that might have been due to not enough stirring after 2 hours in the freezer. The recipe made 1/2 gallon, and I froze it in a deep rectangular Gladware 1/2 gallon tub.

The Young One commented, "Homemade Vanilla Icecream with Strawberries and Chocolate Chips is heaven in a cup!" I.M.G.S. I make good stuff.

Do you like ice cream? What's your favorite flavor? (Image of ice cream from Stock.Xchng)

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Friday Five

Five surprises that happened this week:

1. The Eldest finally got her license. She took the car to work on her first solo trip and I survived!

2. While pulling some weeds, I saw a flash of pink. Turns out, a petunia from last year seeded itself.

3. I enjoy watching while working the back to back episodes of Supernatural on TNT in the morning. Monday, TNT decided to change the lineup and run a stupid Closer marathon.

4. It's been very hot and humid for the past week or so. Not that I mind the heat/humidity. Yesterday, after some showers there was a delicious breeze. So nice to open up the sun room windows before a return to heat and humidity.

5. WPI notified The Young One she scored high enough (either a 4 or 5) on the AP Calc exam and would receive credit for two calculus classes.

Any surprises for you this week?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Give Me, Give Me, Give Me Some Gravy Tonight

I think a lot of us are turned off to making our own gravy (spaghetti sauce) because we think it's time consuming. Standing over a hot stove stirring and simmering. Easier and quicker to open up a jar of sauce. I'm also not "into" cooking. I like the idea of cooking, but not the actual work.  So I like recipes that are quick and easy.  My ma taught me how to make gravy. It only takes 30 minutes to make. By the time you set your pan of pasta water to boil and cook your pasta, you can have delicious home-made gravy.

By the way, I tend not to measure. Just throw in a handful of this or a handful of that as the mood strikes. If it can't hurt the pan, it's can't hurt you.

What you need:

- One  28 lb. can of tomatoes. I, like Ma, only use Pastene Tomatoes, "Kitchen Ready". All the work of skinning and seeding the tomatoes has been done. If you can't find the Pastene tomatoes in your area, you might have to process the brand you use through a sieve to remove skin and seeds if necessary. This will add a few minutes to the cook time.

- One 6 oz. can of tomato paste. Any brand will do. I like to use Contadina flavored with garlic

- Enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your sauce pan. Maybe 3 - 4 T. of olive oil

- 3/4 to a full tomato can of water. Depends on how thick you like your gravy or how much company you have. Less water, thicker gravy. More water, more gravy for more guests (-; Only kidding.

- A couple two or three cloves of garlic, whole or chopped. I don't really care much for garlic. I think cooks use too much of it and it can overpower the food. Most times I use 1/4 tsp. of garlic powder if I don't have the garlic flavored tomato paste. Shhhh.

-A small chopped onion. (optional) I like onion, but onion doesn't like me so I use a teaspoon or so of onion flakes. Shhhh.

Herbs/Spices: More or less to your taste or size of your hand (-;
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 T. dried basil
1/2 - 1 T. of dried oregano
Generous pinch of crushed red pepper

A good slug of wine, red or white, optional for the cook and the pan.

Open the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Set the cans aside.

In a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Saute garlic and onion, until garlic is soft and onions are translucent. Skip the saute part if using garlic powder and dried minced onion.

Add the tomato paste. Stir to make sure the paste doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Add the can of tomatoes and water. Stir

Reduce heat to low. Stir in all your herbs and spices, garlic powder and dried onion. Cover.

If you've fried meatballs or sausage add them to the gravy at this point.

Simmer for 30 minutes or so. Stir every now and again so the gravy doesn't burn. Serve over your favorite pasta. You can let it simmer a lot longer. Just keep stirring it so the gravy doesn't burn. You also might have to add a little water if your gravy has reduced and is too thick.

If the gravy does burn, take the pan off the heat and let it cool. When cool, dump down your garbage disposal or dump in a plastic ziplock bag if you don't have a disposal and throw away. Open up your favorite jar sauce, nuke, and serve over pasta. If anyone asks if you made the gravy say yes. After all, you have the opened cans as evidence.


Do you like to cook? Do you make your own gravy?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wed Letter Day

This reminded me of a trip to the eye doctor. What letter do you see? Now if I put this lens on, is it better or worse? Better or worse? One more time...

Yesterday, Linda asked:  Hey CJ, where have your letters of the week been? How many do you have finished? Will we see more?
As of today, I have 27 letters completed and 25 letters to go. The letters are being assembled into blocks. Four blocks have been completed. Yes, you'll see more letters. Hopefully, I will complete my letter for this week and will post as soon as the ink/paint dries.

And gravy = spaghetti sauce?
Then what do you put on turkey and mashed potatos? You probably already guessed it, but I'm not Italian.
 LOL gravy, of course (-; You would know which meaning depending on whether you were eating Italian food or "American" food. If we were having Thanksgiving dinner at my grandma's, I don't recall ever seeing turkey gravy on the table. She cooked a turkey, and I assume other trimmings, we just didn't eat the "American" Thanksgiving meal.  The feast began with chicken soup with rice, escarole,and little meatballs, antipasto, her signature home-made pasta (shaped like little hats) in red (tomato) gravy (home-made, never from a jar!) ,eggplant Parmigiana, meat which was probably the turkey, but no one bothered with it as we stuffed ourselves on the pasta, salad which signaled the end of the meal. Then there would be fruit and nuts which would give us a chance to rest before her special deep fried bow shaped cookies drizzled with honey, nougat candy from Italy, cake and a pie made from ricotta cheese (pizza dolce). Then it was time for leftover eggplant sandwiches.  Are you sorry you asked? :-D

Do you make your own gravy or does it come from a jar?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Four Letter Words

The word is "ragu". Are the gremlins hungry? Are they hinting for me to make home-made gravy? (What non-Italians would call spaghetti sauce?)

Monday, July 12, 2010

I've Been Framed

Some of you may remember my dragon as a work in progress piece.. This was the artwork I submitted to the Worcester Art Museum faculty art show. What a difference a professional mat and frame makes.

I took my dragon to Gaston Art and Frame. I knew I wanted a mat with a round hole and the color of the mat to match as close as possible to the paper. Other than that there were so many choices. What color for a second mat? What kind of frame: wood, metal, ornate, plain?

John made it very easy. He pulled out  mat samples and frame samples. He brought out color choices that matched the dragon. A frame that had the feel of the dragon's talons. The really cool thing was he scanned in the artwork, mats, frames and then on his computer showed me what the choices would look like! I didn't have to try to imagine what the piece would look like framed. I could actually see it. We played around with different combinations of mat color and frames. Plain frames, ornate dragon talon frames, metal, black.

He had a wonderful knack of guiding me through the whole process so that the choices enhanced the piece and made my work look really good. Oh, and prices were very reasonable even without a coupon.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Friday Five

Himself is always amazed when we have to wait some place like a grocery store line or a doctor's office, how people just gravitate towards me and tell me things about their life. I don't ask them. They just tell me things. While waiting at the doctor's office with my dad yesterday, five things I learned about another patient.

1. As a child, she met her future father-in-law before she met her husband. The father-in-law worked at Benson's Wild Animal Farm as the elephant caretaker. He gave elephant rides to the kid. She loved the elephant and would hang out there on visits, talking to the caretaker and even having lunch with him at the picnic table. When her boyfriend took her home to meet the folks, she looked at the dad. The dad looked at her and said: I know you!

2. Her dad worked for the Boston and Maine Railroad. She used to ride the train in to Boston to go shopping. Then to the rail yard to meet her dad.

3. She wished her son would marry the nice girl he's seeing, settle down and give her grandchildren. She already had a dozen grandchilden, and even a couple of great-grand children. Her face lit up when she was talking about the grandkids. She really liked being a grandma.

4. Her daughter is training for the US Olympic equestrian team.

5. She was having a stress test.

If you're waiting in line, do strangers strike up conversations with you and tell you details of their lives?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Silence is Golden

What do you do when you feel you are standing still and others are flying by you? How do you stop that voice that says you aren't good or aren't good enough?

"Silence is golden. Duct tape is silver."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Four Letter Words

We have gremlins in the house. Usually, they are fond of taking something and hiding it. I know where I left the item, but it is never there. They giggle as I go on a wild goose chase looking for the item. When my back is turned, they return the item to the very spot where I left it.

This time, the gremlins are amusing themselves making four letter words with the blocks I'm constructing as part of the Letter A Week in 2010 project.

I've seen boar, boat and this week boot.

Do you have gremlins in your house?

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Friday Five

Five things about the Fourth of July:

1.  Parades.I love the color, the music, the noise. My favorite bands are the fife and drum corps and the bagpipes.

2. Fireworks. Don't know which I like better the colors in the night sky or the shock wave from the explosion passing through your body. And then there's the tang of cordite. One year, we took my nephew to a display in the next town over. The shells were shot right over the crowd's head. At the end, a smoldering shell lining dropped inches from where we sat! Scary! Now, we watch the fireworks from a very safe distance from The Brother's deck. I also love watching the televised events on the esplanade in Boston listening to the Boston Pops, the 1812 Overture with the live Howitzer cannons and then the fireworks over the harbor.

3. Sparklers. Thin metal sticks coated with aluminum and magnesium filings. When lit, they throw off sparks.  Fireworks are illegal  in Massachusetts. Maybe sparklers were illegal when I was a kid, but we had them. Was like having your own personal fireworks. A wonder we didn't set ourselves on fire.

4. Cookouts. When I was in my teens and twenties, we used to have a big family cookout at my uncle's. A big Italian cookout. Sausage and chicken on the grill besides hamburgers and hotdogs. Roasted peppers. Eggplant Parmagiana, and a big cake to celebrate:

5. My parents' wedding anniversary. They were married on the Fourth of July in 1943. This year, they will be celebrating their 67th wedding anniversary.

Do you celebrate the Fourth of July? What do you like best about the holiday?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Light Up the Darkness

"Light up the darkness." Heard this quote while watching I Am Legend. The quote is attributed to Bob Marley. I liked the quote and wrote it in my quote book.

This is one of those experiments that looked better in my head than it does on paper. A gold leafing pen acted as a resist to the sumi ink and wash used for the background. I like how the gold shimmers with light. I thought I would like the black writing on the black background, but it's hard to read in places. I'll be revisiting this quote soon.

Have you worked on something, thought the effect was meh and then went back to it at a later time? Were you pleased with your efforts?