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Hot Hot Hot

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This is just a quickie post. Duncan has had a fever since Tuesday, yes I took him to the doctor yesterday. 103.5 Yikes. We began antibiotics-one of his glands was enormous and angry red. This afternoon he spiked 105. Perhaps the only good thing about your child having that high a fever, is you get to talk to the actual doctor right away. Cold bath, which he destested and now alternating fever reducers every 3 hours. He can move his neck in all permutations, thank goodness. He will be fine. Here is a picture of him making pancakes over the weekend.

Onward!

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The key to this chili is proportion. If you are the kind of cook who needs to measure everything out, this will drive you around the bend. This is all done by eye and what you like. The way I make it, there is a lot of meat. So, if you like a very substantial chili this is the one for you. Each time I make it, I put in much more meat than I think is a good idea and it turns out perfect. Plus, your butcher will love you. Another note about the pork roast. Buy the best you can. This dish will not save or mask sub-par meat. This time around, I bought beautiful organic boneless pork roast. 10.5 pounds of it. 4 roasts. The butcher was very happy to have the crazy lady in his shop. If you do make as much as I did (it is easily scaled up or down), you will have enough for a party as well as enough for your freezer. This chili does freeze well, just write the date in the container for safety! Also, check the spices when you have reheated it, it may need a bit of perking up, which is easy enough to do.

Roast Pork and Black Bean Chili

10.5 lbs. high quality boneless pork roast (organic if you can)

6 cups black beans rinsed, inspected and soaked over night in water.

6 large cloves garlic, 2 for cooking with the beans and 4 minced or grated for saute

4 large red onions, chopped

2 large white onions, chopped

2 28oz cans of pickled cactus (nopalitos), drained and chopped. Often cilantro and peppers accompany the nopalitos in the container, I just toss them out.

16 oz of diced green chilis (canned)

Red chili peppers of your choice, to your desired heat level. Chopped or crushed. I used 2 dried Thai Dragon chilis and 3 Cayenne chilis. This is a lot but not for this amount of chili.

Cumin (Most)

Chili powder (More)

Salt & pepper (Some)

Cinnamon (Less)

Cardamom (Even less)

Nice to have:

Rasp or fine grater for garlic. You could use a garlic press too.

Heavy duty cookie sheet, if using disposable roasting pan.

Meat thermometer

A few notes about the construction of this chili. It is very forgiving as you can add and subtract at your heart’s desire. It tastes best when started several days before you want to serve it. Saturday night? I would start soaking (or just boiling forever) the beans on Wednesday. My time line usually looks like this:

Wednesday

Rinse and inspect beans. Put the beans in 16 quart (or larger) pot with at least 6 inches of water and two large smashed cloves of garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium and cook until the beans are tender. While the beans are cooking away I usually add about 2 tablespoons of Better than Bouillon , the beef base. Yes, we are cooking pork and I use beef. You may need to add more liquid as the beans cook. This liquid will become the “gravy” for your chili. Go for it!

In a large straight sided saute pan (or something similar), on medium heat, first lay down a fairly generous amount of olive oil. Once this heats up add first your garlic and crushed or chopped chili peppers and diced green chilis. I use a rasp or fine grater for the garlic to get the consistency I want, I want it to dissolve and still taste like garlic. After a minute or two I add the red and white onions. Sweat these and then when they are sufficiently soft and translucent add the chopped cactus. Lower heat and let everybody get to know each other for a while.

Then mix your spices. You want about 2 and a half cups total for all the spices combined. The rating system I used above should give you an idea about the ratios I used. Heaviest on the cumin and then less for each one listed. It is better to err on the side of caution and add less. You can always add, but never subtract.

Take about 2 cups of the spice mixture and set aside. Add the last half cup to the sauteing/sweating onion nopaltos mixture.

Close the operation down for the night. Seal it all up and you can start again tomorrow.

Thursday

Take your boneless pork roast(s), your pot of beans and your onion, cactus, and garlic mixture (which you have put into a bowl & covered the night before, no need to put such a large pan in the fridge) out of the refrigerator.

Let the pork rest come to room temperature and put your spices in a big, shallow baking pan. A 9×13 Pyrex would be ideal. Put on your gloves before handling raw meat! Pick up roasts one at a time and roll them in the spice mix, on all sides and on both ends. Rub them into the roast and repeat the rolling and the rubbing. You are after a very fragrant and highly spiced pork roast.

Turn beans on low, add onion, cactus and spice mixture and begin to bring it up to heat.

Preheat oven to 425. Take a sturdy roasting pan, or a disposable on with a heavy duty cookie sheet underneath it, and place spiced roasts in the pan, giving as wide a berth as possible to each roast. Cook until internal roast temperature is 140 degrees. The pork will not be fully cooked, so don’t eat it at this point, please. Let the pork rest about 10-15 minutes. Slice roast in half and then each half into quarters. Then slice each piece into generous bite size pieces. Put all the chopped pork roast into the bean mixture, stir to distribute. Cook on medium low for about an hour. This will fully cook the pork.

Make sure you properly clean up after handling the undercooked pork. You are done for today.

Friday

Take the really heavy pot of chili out of the fridge, and gently warm on a medium low heat. Once it has warmed up, taste it. How is it? Today is the day to add more stuff if you want. Does it need more beans? If so, cook them separately and add them ASAP. You want them to blend in and not taste like an afterthought. Do you want more onion? Chop and sweat some more, and get them in ASAP. The 3rd day of the chili (today) is the most important day. This is truly the day all the flavors marry. So adjust spices, add more onion, chili peppers, what ever you want, or not- it is your chili.

After all your adjustments are done, you are done for the day.

Saturday

Take the chili out of the refrigerator. Heat it up on medium, stirring occasionally. Once it is to temperature, you may notice some extra liquid on the top. I usually ladle most of it off. The consistency you want is stew, not soup.

You are done! Enjoy! And you may win your chili cook-off like I did last year. Or you may lose by one vote, like I did this year.

I’ve got a title to defend

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Every year my My Uncle John has a chili cook-off. Nevermind that he, himself, actually cooks no chili. He has hosted this event for many years and after he married my Aunt Barbara, the tradition continued. She shakes her head at the whole thing and says :”Hey, I just live here.” Last year was the first year I actually attended the event as we have lived cross country from them, not the 30 minutes we do now. My invitation was received and my calendar marked. Then I forgot about it. I remembered about a week before and was non-comittal about actually making chili. Not that I couldn’t make chili, I learned at the heels of my father, a master. He used to make Chili for 300 people every Easter. I know, not traditional but hey I am from California after all. So I just was ambivalent. Then I realized that not only could I make chili, I was going to win this cook-off, by hook or by crook. It does bear mentioning that the voting in this cook-off is shady at best. There is politicking, ballot fraud, dangling chads galore and it is absolutely okay to vote for yourself many, many times. I was resolved that I would win and I would win big.

So, I thought and thought and read cookbooks. None of the recipes appealed, inventing my own was the way to go. My creation was a jewel of a concoction, if I do say so myself.

There was every kind of chili imaginable and trust me, you needed quite the imagination to consider some of the other dishes as chili. Crockpots, extension cords, paper bowls, beer, 20 particpants and 150 people crammed into the house. The prize was a hand blown glass chili, which is passed from last year’s winner, and bragging rights. Lots and lots of bragging rights. Well, lookie who won!

Roast Pork and Black Bean (Turtle Bean) Chili was my brainchild, and the others thought it was pretty darned good too. Tonight is the 2006 chili cook-off and I have a title to defend. The recipe is being made again and this time, written down. When it is done, I will share the recipe and (hopefully) the news that I have retained my title. Until then, some photo blogging…

This year I grew my own chilis. The small ones are Cayenne and the long scary looking ones are Thai Dragon. The plants were purchased at Maryland Sheep & Wool from Thorne Farm (sorry, no link to be found). They also sold beautiful organic heirloom tomato plants. I will be visiting them again this year, for sure.

Then make a huge jumble of spices for the roast pork. Remember to wear your gloves when handling raw meat. (I will spare you pictures of that)


My House

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The very gracious and talented Emily tagged me for the house door meme. Thanks Emily! It was my very first time being tagged. House doors are a funny thing. We have a front door and nobody ever uses it really. Except Earl when he goes out in the morning. If you click the picture to enlarge it, you can actually see sweet Earl better. Photographing that dog is like photographing a pool of black ink.


If somebody uses the front door, you know that they do not know us all that well. We are not a formal people. The only use the door bell gets is Angus ringing it maniacally to drive his poor dear mother even further around the bend. Here is the view out the front door.





We love our bluebird house. We had 2 batches of baby bluebirds last year. Sorry about the picture of the pipe- this is more the side yard than the front yard. Here is a picture of the front door. Those steps need to be washed!


Soon the door will be stained black to match the fence. It drives me crazy that it doesn’t match. So, the door from the kitchen to the garage functions as our main door out of the house. Boring picture here:


When friends or family come to visit they know to come around back to the kitchen door. That poor door is practically falling off its hinges, it gets slammed by small hollering boys so often. Here is the view of the door from the kitchen table:

Hhhhmmm, whom to tag? I tag Laura (she is so multitalented) and I am also tagging kt. Yes, folks live in fear, there is more than one KT who knits. Go say hi and tell her to post more, she is a great writer! Tell her I sent ya!

More thoughts on Color

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Color really does do different things for different people. Take my dear sweet Hubbalicious, for example. He has a fantastic eye for color and yet it doesn’t really interest him all that much. Color doesn’t matter to him. I have learned to be okay with this, though it confounds me how anybody can not care about color. Makes me gasp for air. He is extrememly creative and his medium is technology. It used to specifically be writing code and has grown into all technology. And you can go check out his gadget blog.

When we moved into our home I had most of the interior painted. Did you know that Benjamin Moore has small jars of paint, enough to paint a 2″x2″ swatch on your wall? Well, I wish I had a picture – there were about 30 2″x2″ swatches on my walls. For several months. A color was chosen and as the final choice went on the walls, I was skeptical. I let it grow on me for a few days and decided the elephant grey color I had chosen was actually lavender. Once I had seen the lavender, I could not un-see it. The color, Smoked Oyster, was lovely just not the one for me. So the next time my husband went out of town, I had it all repainted. And did not tell the hubbalicious. For over six months. He did not notice. Of course, I told everybody we knew because well, it was hysterical. He walked into my study as I was changing some furniture around…

Hubbalicious: “Hey, you have moved some things around in here. See, I notice stuff!”

Me: At which point, I could keep quiet no longer and I replied: “Oh, like you noticed how I had two thirds of the house repainted about six months ago?”

Hubbalicious: “Right, from beige to the color it is now.”

Me: “Nope, from that lavenderish color to this Stardust Grey

Hubbalicious:”You what? How much did it cost? You what? Prove it! Show me!”

Point proven. Eventually he could laugh about it, I have not stopped laughing about it.

Here is a 16 week course ALL about color. Free and online! Really, go there and read it. I have not read it all, what I have seen looks amazing. If you have any interest in just about any aspect of color, do yourself a favor and go there.

Color harmony completely fascinates me. Color theory is an area that I want to learn more about. There was a painting exercise I did a very long time ago that has stuck in my brain as the teacher pulled me aside after class and asked my why I wanted to paint. Ouch. Actually, I was being lazy and making it harder than it was all at the same time. The exercise was to pick three colors and make a painting. You could pick any three colors you wanted. I chose cadmium yellow, a violet and white. You will note, there is no cool color in the lot. That painting was the flattest thing you have ever seen. There was no Pop! And the Pop! is very important. Sometimes I do things that are all Pop! and there is no quiet place. Like this:


That is one of my favorite tricks, to color the cake batter. A great way to do this when making layer cake is to do each layer a different color. It is very effective in getting oooh and ahhs at parties because the cake looks like any other cake when it is frosted, but cut into it and Pop! These cupcakes are for the Hubbalicious when he comes back from Seattle tonight.

Othertimes, though more rare, it is all quiet and no Pop! Or very subdued Pop! Here is a quick oil sketch I did of myself (which looks nothing like me) a few (4?) years ago:

Someone who does color beautifully is Eric Fischl. Before you click some of his images are very explicit. If nudity bothers you, don’t go there. Anyhow, the way Fischl handles color makes me swoon. And his wife, April Gornik is also brilliant. And Delia Brown (More nudity! Beware, if you don’t like naked people!) really is wonderful. If you know anything about her, drop me a comment please. It is very tough for me to find stuff on her. Oh, and here is another drawing of hers. This drawing reminds me of just how much I love tone on tone. All this talk about color has me completely inspired, as do your very kind comments. Thank you. Have you seen project spectrum over at Lolly’s? Honestly, I had seen it and thought “Not for me”. Not certain why I thought that, but I did. Well, count me in. Painting is an avocation (I love that word) for me and I have not painted in almost 3 and a half years. I miss it terribly. It is the paint fumes I miss the most. Hah! For project spectrum I will do a one or a bunch of paintings and or drawings in the color of the month. I will keep you posted. Painting is someplace where I get lost, in a very good way. Sometimes in my own, and most often in other’s paintings. It is the color, the movement, the space created. We could all use a little bit more space and a quiet place to rest our eyes, couldn’t we?

Thank you again for the kind comments. Next up in the crazy color rantings…how color sneaks up on you!

Thoughts on color, energy and choosing well

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Color. I love color. Each color has some element beauty for me. Color theory is extremely intriguing to me as are some philosophical discussions. A brief discussion of basic color principles and definitions can be found here. Color is a passion for me. It can take me up or bring me down. Color can quiet me or rev me up. We used to have a kitchen that was the exact color of my neighbors lawn, which we could see out the window, making the kitchen seem much larger than it actually was. The grass green was a very clean color to me, so even when the kitchen was a disaster it seemed cleaner than it actually was because of the Clean Green Walls.

Before there were small hollering boys in our lives, our house was a riot of color. Green kitchen, grape library, yellow family room. And it worked. It worked because they were all the same value. On another level, it did not work because they were all very vibrant and I found it difficult to relax in some of the more brightly colored rooms. If you ever want to skyrocket your productivity, paint your office or workspace red! My old home office had geranium red walls and the rest of the room was done in tones of red and pink. I got stuff d-o-n-e. Now, with the small hollering boys it would be unbearable to have all that color on the walls. There is quite enough energy here as it is, thank you. When we moved into this house Angus, who is extremely energetic to begin with, requested a firetruck red room.

As an aside, when I tell people that we have super high energy boys, most of the time I am met with: “Oh that’s how all little boys are”. After meeting them, I hear: “I thought you were exaggerating, but those boys are the most energetic I have ever met!”

Back to color…The request for the firetruck red room was denied and a compromise was reached. Robin’s egg blue walls and a red door. Thomas the Tank Engine Colors and yet oddly chic and refreshing when no trains are involved- good thing too as his old room is now my sewing room. And I find the blue invigorating and quieting all at the same time. Yes, the door is still red.

As much as I love color, sometimes it gives me fits. Rather, I give myself fits because I get lazy about color. Lazy about the process. I settle for good enough when with a bit more work it could be really striking. This really does pertain to all areas of my life, whether it be quilting, painting, knitting or what color my bathroom is. (More on this tomorrow).

Here are some fabrics I have gathered for a future quilt for Angus. This kid seriously loves red. In the past few months he has allowed that he might, just might, like blue.

So in the name of the process, I made this Courthouse Steps block to proof my ideas about how these fabrics work together. Very pleased that I did as it showed me several things I had not seen before.

I attempted to have the red based fabrics from the center go from light to dark. This was somewhat successful. The outermost red fabric and the one next to it need to switch. Looking at them alone, I thought the outermost was the darker red. That is what I love about color- how it is one color on its own and quite another depending on who its neighbor is. The white based fabrics were meant to go from the center, dark to light. The second (from the left) white based fabric, the dotted one, needs to be one position closer to the center and the floral needs to be second from the left.

To sum up about all this color talk, I wanted to publicly admire some people who I believe are masters of color and inspire me to learn and do more. Angry Chicken, Yarnstorm, Be*mused, and Six and a Half Stitches. There are many others that inspire and I will tell you about them soon, though you probably all ready know them. Thank you ladies!

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Wheesh! What a weekend. We got over a foot of snow here! Crazy, crazy, crazy! I got absolutely NO knitting done over the weekend. None yesterday, either. It was a snowday and that required me to be outside with the boys. There is so much snow here that almost 3 year old Duncan cannot walk in it. So he flops down onto the snow and then asks me to pick him up. Continuously. Flop, ask, flop, ask, flop, ask, flop, ask. Mom runs shrieking as it is just too Groundhog Day for me. What is that old joke…man it is tickling my brain…Something about it not being Groundhog day but it being Ground Hog Day. Like sausage. Man I remember it being funny I just can’t remember where it came from. Ah the fading brain. We took a bunch of picture pre-dawn Sunday morning. Above is one of my favorites. It was taken by the Hubbalicious. It was adorable, he was out there in a coat, his shorts and snow boots wielding a tripod. I would love to show you but if I did, all I would get is this face…


That would be the serious and grumpy face.
Today being Valentines, you can imagine the candy is through the roof here. I still am doling out Christmas candy for crying out loud. Children in Angus’ class we giving out goody bags of candy like it was their birthdays. Thank goodness we have a sitter coming tonight and she can deal with the sugar crash. So Duncan got a box of candy hearts from one of his teachers….this box in fact…
You may enlarge the picture (just click) to read it, but one of the hearts says “Fax Me”! Fax me? Holy cow? Fax me? For Valentines? For a not even three year old? Fax me? The most ridiculous thing you could ever put on a valentine heart. Ever.
While no knitting happened this weekend I did get a new book today. Delivered to my door by Steve, our friendly UPS guy. Yes, I know his name. We see him a lot over at Casa LWIM, what’s it to ya?


Inspired cable Knits by Fiona Ellis ISBN #1-4000-8271-4 It arrived the day it was “released” on Amazon. That is fantastically cool. This book is really very beautiful. In the big rush of knitting book that have come out recently there are very few that I really love. This is one. The sweaters are timeless. There are only 2 or 3 not to my liking. Not that they are ugly, just not my style. Sleeveless tanks, um, no. I am thrilled with this book, there is so much here to work with. Fiona Ellis has worked hard and it shows in these patterns.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Yea, I’m a lemming

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Ten Top Trivia Tips about LookiewhatImade!

  1. According to the story, Pinocchio was made of lookiewhatImade.
  2. LookiewhatImade can jump up to sixteen times her own height.
  3. Louisa May Alcott, author of ‘Little LookiewhatImade’, hated lookiewhatImade and only wrote the book at her publisher’s request.
  4. The pigment Indian Yellow was manufactured from the urine of cows fed only on lookiewhatImade!
  5. LookiewhatImade is the only one of the original Seven Wonders of the World that still survives.
  6. It takes more than 500 peanuts to make lookiewhatImade.
  7. LookiewhatImade can drink over 25 gallons of water at a time.
  8. A cluster of bananas is called a hand and consists of 10 to 20 bananas, which are individually known as lookiewhatImade.
  9. Worldwide, lookiewhatImade is the most important natural enemy of night-flying insects.
  10. To check whether lookiewhatImade is safe to eat, drop her in a bowl of water; rotten lookiewhatImade will sink, and fresh lookiewhatImade will float.

I am interested in – do tell me about

Yes, folks, there is lots and lots of good stuff going on over here- I am just a bit busy. I promise, next week, the phoning in of the blog posts will stop. Have a great weekend and pray for snow! Thanks for stopping by. Oh and I was all set to sign up for the Knitting Olympics and I, um, missed the cutoff. So go, Olympians go!

Love me, love my ironing board

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Okay, fellow bloglanders, you are the few, the select , the proud, and the truly appreciative. Only you are obsessed enough to savor the absolute geekiness of this. I have created what may be the ultimate ironing board. Do you find regular, store bought ironing boards lacking? Do they not satisfy you in a way that you want to be satisfied? Do you find them too small? Awkward? Too cumbersome? Not cumbersome enough? Geographically undesirable? How do you really feel about the ironing board in your life? You can tell me, it is okay- really. I am a vault and can keep you ironing board woes to myself. Confession is good for the soul.

May I introduce you to my new, yet un-named ironing board…



I think it is a he but I am not yet certain. He acts like a Murphy bed. He stores up like you see above, and he is flexible, really, an easy going kind of guy. Here he is reclining comfortably…


He is feeling a wee bit naked- his legs need upholstering. Here is a view of his top. This is the same fabric I will be using for the curtains. Why shouldn’t everybodies ironing board match the curtains. I tell ya, it should be mandatory!


Here is my favorite part of the pattern repeat…


And my favorite touch on the overall design are the copper canvas tacks that I used to fasten the layers to the table. I have stretched MANY a canvas and much prefer the copper tacks to staples. Plus the colors look so beautiful against the copper. And I got to use my rubber mallet, which is always fun.

I intend to use him for ironing, pressing, blocking and general appreciation. He was VERY simple to make. One sheet batting, one sheet ironing board fabric (the silver kind), the top fabric and a kajillion copper tacks. Oh and he measures a whopping 32″ x 54″. It is amazing what can make a girl swoon, isn’t it.

My secret is out

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