Czech it out

I’m researching the Czech Republic and using bad puns. [Have you read that China has banned puns?]

I’ve found Czech Republic: Recommended Books and Movies by Rick Steves and Honza Vihan useful.

The Twelve Little Cakes by Dominkika Dery

The Twelve Little Cakes by Dominkika Dery

I gulped down The Twelve Little Cakes by Dominika Dery. Dery’s telling of her father putting the secret police to work restoring the yard after a flood in the chapter “The Little Coffin” is wonderful. This recommendation came from ‘Czech Republic: Recommended Books and Movies’.

Another memoir, Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968 by Heda Kovly speaks of Nazi horrors and communist mistrust. This recommendation came from ‘Czech Republic: Recommended Books and Movies’.

References

‘Czech Republic: Recommended Books and Movies’. Czech Republic: Recommended Books and Movies | ricksteves.com, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ricksteves.com/europe/czech-republic/books-movies&gt;.

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Winter warmth

My first window quilt is complete, after sitting in various stages of progress for literally years!

Completed Window Quilt

Completed window quilt

The window-facing side is made from a patch work of old jeans, inspired by the Quilts of Gee’s Bend. The jeans were hard to work with because I didn’t use the most stained regions (this means lots of old jeans) and the denim had lots of variability due to the variety of original weave, amount of wear, and that I didn’t align the grain. The conglomeration wanted to stretch in unpredictable ways.

Old Jeans and Bras

Old jeans and bras

The batting is fleece from a neighbor’s stash. It was bought for a project and never used.

The room facing fabric is from the thrift store. It was just big enough for this one window.

The new quilt can be opened!

The new quilt can be opened!

The hardware was from the Roman shade that was in the window when we bought the house. The pull had come apart some time ago and the shade was permanently in the closed position.

The replaced shade

The replaced shade

Fabulously, I was able to use hardware that I saved from old bras to route the pull cord. Before you start thinking that I lead a depraved life to gain such satisfaction from reusing bits of old underwear, note that the rings don’t quite match. That’s because I’ve enjoyed a variety of colored underwear: white, pink, tan. Also, each set of hardware represents new underwear. New underwear provides a joy akin to that of new shoes. If you haven’t experienced this, perhaps you have too many clothes. Or perhaps you are more spiritually advanced than I. To dispel you the notion that I have an unhealthy fascination with underwear, I also collect hardware from bib overalls. Still not convinced? Oh well. Artists are rarely appreciated in their own time.

Hardware for future projects

Hardware for future projects

What will I do differently next time? First of all, I will use whole cloth or match the grain on the window side of the quilt, mostly to expedite the process. Secondly, I will use a double-fold binding instead of self-binding the edges. This should give the quilt a tidier look. I like the haphazard look of the jeans-side, but the not-quite-even edge on the striped side isn’t as pleasing to me. Third, I would sew the bra hardware on by machine, so that the stitching holds all of the layers together. I sewed this one by hand, only through the denim.

I would use fleece again for a batting. It is light weight, insulating, and easy to sew through. Used blankets should be a good source of fleece. Did I mention this is my first machine quilting project of any size? It is.

Now what to do with the old shade? Do you need a short chicken fence? That will have to wait until next spring. Until then, enjoy the warmth of winter by bundling up!

Inspired Vegetarian Chili

Steamy Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 2 c sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 c finely chopped onion
  • 1 c chopped carrot
  • 3/4 c chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 c chopped celery
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 1 t medium hot chili powder (I used Penzeys Spices)
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 1/8 t salt
  • 3/4 t ground black pepper
  • 3/4 t dried basil
  • 3/4 t dried oregano
  • 2 quarts tomato juice, no seeds or skins
  • 3 c cooked black beans, drained and rinsed (about 26.5 oz canned)
  • hot pepper sauce to taste

Optional, advanced ingredients: Evenly diced sweet potato, parsnip, rutabaga, potato, and/or salsify.

  1. Heat olive oil in the large pot that that you’re going to add all the ingredients to. Add mushrooms, onion, carrot, green bell pepper, celery, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, basil, and oregano. Stir and cook until the onion begins to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a simmering boil until the carrots are the consistency you’d like.
  3. In a separate pot, steam the optional root vegetables to your desired consistency.
  4. Add the black beans and root vegetables to the chili. Re-heat to a boil and serve.

Some cooks get their inspiration from flavors, texture, color, or culture. My primary inspiration is ingredient volume. My vegetarian chili (and all other chili, for that matter) is extremely variable due to random harvesting, dumping, and jumbling of whatever is on hand. The first attempt at this vegetarian chili started with a recipe, highly rated from the reliable resource of the internet. Immediately and purposefully, I mangled the recipe to suit my tomato format, which is wonderfully canned in quart jars, without seeds or skins, by my dearly beloved George. Why add tomato paste and water, when you can just add tomatoes? I love fresh ingredients too. They never come in neat sizes. Perhaps the perfectly medium-sized bell pepper is 3/4 of a cup, but certainly not one from the store or my garden. The carrots came from the garden and were very fresh. In fact they needed to be dug, topped, scrubbed, diced, and then cut into tiny pieces by my favorite chopper. Yes, a real chef would never use one of these things. If you eat my food, you want me to use one. My hand chopping of hard vegetables flings them all over, mostly onto the floor. You don’t want to eat off my floor. Another thing about the carrots, they are wonderful and fresh, but by the time I’m done preparing them, I’m cranky. We did have some beautiful carrots out of the garden. But now we’re down to the ones that weren’t properly thinned and the carrots are pinky-sized, at best. Prepping homemade baby carrots isn’t my idea of fun. Following this stream of consciousness, this will be my second winter that I plan to glue carrot seeds onto a long strip of toilet paper, at the proper spacing. By time time glue and toilet paper season had rolled around last year it was long past the baby carrot harvest and gluing carrot seeds to toilet paper seemed ridiculous. May my current conviction lead to greater follow through this year! Jumping ahead to the conclusion of the first batch of chili: I followed my adaptation of the recipe and left lots of containers of leftovers in the refrigerator (3 T diced bell pepper, the extra carrots, etc.). No root vegetables were added. In the end I found the chili too spicy without enough depth of flavor (the internet recipe called for 1 T chili powder and 3/4 t hot pepper sauce).

The next three batches found me only measuring what was easy (quarts of tomatoes, spices) and just chopping and dumping the rest. I think the final batch was the best. Certainly not repeatable since I didn’t really measure, however I did use about two quarts of diced root vegetables in addition to the other ingredients. As far as spiciness, it isn’t too spicy, but I figure the eater can add that with hot pepper sauce.

Pretty kale that has nothing to do with chili October 16, 2014

Pretty kale that has nothing to do with chili
October 16, 2014

Grandma’s chicken in corn bread

I’m cleaning up some papers (picture a laundry basket with paper of all types piled in it, odd items (like a bike lock) interspersed throughout, and lots of dust and dog hair). This recipe for Grandma Elma’s chicken in corn bread surfaced. The dish was common in my childhood, especially for special events like the Fourth of July picnic on the farm. The chicken in cut into pieces, with skin and bone left in place, and baked. About half way through the baking, a corn meal batter is poured over the chicken. This recipe calls for the dish to be prepared in a 2 quart casserole, but I remember it in a 9″ x  13″  aluminum cake pan.

3 lb chicken, cut into pieces
1/4 c four
2 T oleo

Coat chicken with 1/4 c flour. Place 2 T oleo and chicken in 2 quart casserole and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

2 T oleo
1 c chopped celery
1 c chopped onion
1 T flour
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper

Sauté 2 T oleo, celery, and onion. Blend in 1 T flour, salt, and pepper. Place around chicken.

1/2 c flour
1/2 c corn meal
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t sage
1/4 t thyme
1/8 t pepper
1 T oleo
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 c milk

Combine dry ingredients. Blend in oleo, eggs, and milk.  Spoon this topping over chicken.

2 T chicken soup base
1.5 c water

Dissolve soup base in water. Pour over topping. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

Enjoy this rich and savory dish under the shade trees while the sun shines above. Pair with watermelon and volleyball on the lawn.

Just the right size

The title says it all: Just the Right Size: Why Big Animals are Big and Little Animals are Little.

Just the Right Size by Nicola Davies

Just the Right Size by Nicola Davies

This great science picture book explores the size of living things from microbes to whales and the factors that influence their size. There is math (length, surface area, cross section, volume, and mass) to explain the Big Thing, Little Thing (BTLT) rule, but wait, there’s more! Flight, surface tension, walking on walls, strength, digestion, respiration, circulation, habitat, temperature, and migration, and communication all come into play. I recommend this book for everyone, especially those who can share it with nine to twelve year old children.

If this book sounds too serious, read it for the superhero debunking, giant spiders that break their legs, and whale guts.