Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Deer Stands and Frosty Mornings

Life can return to normal now. Andy got his deer stand set up last night, which means the late autumn days spent tromping through the woods, searching for deer signs have happily (hopefully?) come to an end. Deer season starts on Saturday (where did the time go?!) and from that date forward, Andy will be the only one heading out to sit in the stand in the wee morning and evening hours. My contributions to this year's hunt have done and will only resume (hullo sausage making) in the advent that Andy actually shots a deer this year. 

Not that I don't enjoy a good tromp in the woods. But have you ever felt like you've personally trod on every inch of a square mile area? Because I sure have.

Our weather is changing from cool to downright frosty. The kale and Brussels sprouts that have been holding their own out in the back garden have finally met their maker. I harvested a bumper crop of Brussels sprouts *cough, a cup of pea-sized sprouts, cough* on Sunday and while I'm sure they'll be sweet and delicious, I'm not sure Brussels sprouts are deserving of my garden real estate next year, no matter how very expensive they are in the grocery store.

A happy result of deer scouting yesterday morning was a chance to catch the world in a frosty glow. The woods really have beautifully exquisite moments in every season, no?



Happy Halloween to all. No carved pumpkin, no decorations, not even tricker-treaters around here, but tonight, when I watch the dark clouds scud across the full moon, I'll think of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and feel a delightful chill down my spine.

 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Transitions, Darkness and Working at Home

Here we go again: transition time at Of Woods and Words. Not counting the many, many seasonal changes we have each year, we go through two major transitions annually: when I go to work full-time out of the house each May, and when I starting working from home again each October. Both transition periods have their hiccups, but arguably the autumn transition back to working from home is more difficult because I feel a need to transform myself into homemaker extraordinaire, freelancer extraordinaire, and Etsy extraordinaire, while also attending to the demands of my day job. (Whew! I'm just glad there aren't pets or children in that mix!)

Full time work officially ended last Sunday and over the last eight days, I've been bouncing between home and work, trying to get everything set so I can truly start working from by the end of this week. The first week after closing up for the season is always discombobulated: the last board meeting of the season, packing up the building, moving the office to the cabin, and making sure everything's set to over winter without freezing, shattering, or being gnawed on by vermin.


It's really easy to be way too hard on yourself during these times of transition. I've been sleeping far too much this past week. Despite my best intentions to get up and at it before sunrise, it's so dark in the mornings, and the bed is so awfully warm and cozy, that by the time I drag myself out from the covers each morning, I already feel like I'm behind.

It doesn't help my motivation that I devoted last Monday morning to making an editorial calendar for myself which when completed, I looked at and went "Holy shite, no wonder I'm always feel like I'm forgetting something." Even when I drop my day job obligations from 40 hours a week to a mere 16, I'm still over-scheduled. So perhaps before I move forward much farther during this work at home season, I need to figure out some ways to work smarter, rather than harder.(I.e. make more money while either doing the same, or less work.)

Then there's the fact that Baja went to shop last Thursday and was given a 4K diagnosis (why hullo there new transmission, clutch, timing belt, et al.) from a very reputable mechanic. After weighing just about every option out there (declaring a total loss, car loans, becoming a one car household, etc. etc.) we're repairing it since that's most economical and environmentally conscious thing to do, which means I'm not exactly in a position to pass up any paying work that I can get. Whenever I claim that there's some conspiracy against my using motorized equipment, Andy says I'm being silly. But honestly, even my KitchenAid mixer exploded after only two years of use. It's fine. It's really getting rather amusing by this point.

In the last 15 days, I think the sun's shone about seven whole hours and we're all feeling a little gloomy. I forgot I even had Halloween decorations until I was cleaning the back bedroom on Saturday and happened upon the holiday decorations box in the closet. Yesterday, it snowed all morning (and actually stuck to the ground and accumulated), so it's been a little confusing what season it actually is. Most likely, with Halloween being just two days away now, the Halloween decorations will spend all of 2012 hibernating away in the closet.

Although it's a rather dark, bumpy transition time at the moment, I'm trying not to focus on what hasn't been getting done, and instead focus on what I have been accomplishing. Suppers are certainly tastier now that I have a little more time to devote meal prep and the house is at its tidiest in months. And look, I even created an Etsy shipping corner in the back bedroom! It's about the little things . . . right? Quality of living is definitely improving around here.


Certainly, there's a need to bump up productivity. I just have to remember that being kind to myself as the seasonal darkness creeps in, and creating light from within rather than being dependent on sunshine and long days to elevate my mood, is probably the best way to make the annual transition into working from home go smoothest.

 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rage Against The Pink

Next topic up in the "Ada has opinions series": Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

(You guys, I'm sorry, I have lots of opinions this October. Starting next week, I promise, there will be a return to the soft-hitting, easy-going, heartwarming, downright cozy content you've grown accustomed to on Of Woods and Words.)

I think we can all agree that the world would be a better place without breast cancer. But lately, I've been feeling a little "pinked out." Here's what's been bugging me about the pinkwashing that's been going on this October.

What the heck is up with the NFL's pink shoes?! 

Source
This NFL season I've watched approximately 30 seconds of football action. And during those 30 seconds I shocked to see all the players running around in pink apparel on a field stamped with pink breast cancer awareness ribbons. I get that the juxtaposition of big burly guys advocating for a cause as delicate and feminine as breast cancer is supposed to make us stop and think about the cause, but something about the whole scene didn't sit right with me.

As a friend posted on Facebook earlier this month: "I personally would be more impressed if the NFL gave the money they spend on all the pink gear to the charity-- what a waste." 

Yes, she and I both know that the pink NFL items will get auctioned off and the proceeds will be donated to charity, but it still feels like a racket to me. 

To me, altruism works best when done quietly. If you broadcast your generosity (like NFL is doing with all that pink gear) then ego is coming into play and the motivation for your generosity starts getting the side eye from people like me. Give because you care about a cause, not because you think it'll be good for business.

Buy purchasing this product, .00099876 % of proceeds will be donated to breast cancer research.

Thank you for using your potentially cancer causing product to promote cancer awareness (Source)
I was driving home last week when I heard a commercial on radio offering 20% off a weight loss plan "in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month?" Wait, what?! I thought I needed my ears cleaned, but then they said it again, "20% off during the month of October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month."   

Now I know that obesity is a contributing factor in many breast cancer cases, but there are a lot of other reasons to maintain a healthy weight and using breast cancer as a way to promote your weight loss product feels like corporate America is making a profit on the back of someone else's misfortune.

There are so many pink products out there with the promise of giving some amount of their profits  back to a breast cancer research foundation. But would we have so many supposedly charitable products out there if this cancer had nothing to do with women's breasts or if the awareness color wasn't pink?

Breasts/sex sells. Pink sells. 

But there are all sorts of un-sexy cancers out there. Lung cancer is a cause much nearer and dearer to my heart than breast cancer, but I just had to google when lung cancer awareness month even is. (FYI: it's November.) We all know that pink is the color of breast cancer awareness, but most of us would be hard-pressed to name the color of ribbons appropriate for colon, prostate, stomach or any other cancer awareness. And there aren't too many products out there that promise to donate a portion of their proceeds to other cancer research funds. So stop using my potentially cancerous boobs to make money already!

Btw, here's a great list of pink items to avoid this October.

Susan G. Komen Foundation

Perhaps my biggest issue with Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year is the month's close association with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I'm still livid about the foundation's (albeit, temporary) move this January to cut off  funding to Planned Parenthood. For years, Komen have provided grants to Planned Parenthood to make Planned Parenthood clinics places where women with little to no health insurance can go for an affordable breast exam and/or mammogram. But when Komen started getting a little heat from the pro-life contingency in Washington, suddenly, Komen balked and decided they no longer wanted to be associated with Planned Parenthood. Let's all start making chicken noises, shall we? I'm still so mad, I won't even buy Yoplait (and its pink caps) any more.

I've had issues with the Komen foundation long before the Planne Parenthood debacle of January/February 2012. Komen has been a notable bully in the cancer fundraising world, working to make sure they're the only organization that can use the "for the Cure" slogan for their fundraising events. This means they've actually pulled legal action against small fundraisers such as a local dog sled fundraiser called "Mush for a Cure" which, to date, has donated more than $100,000 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.Um, yeah, that's a good use of your donated funds . . . .

Susan G. Komen Foundation takes offense to this fundraiser
Lastly, Komen, which is by far the most recognizable name in breast cancer fundraising and research, contributes a mere 21% of their budget to actual research. Which basically means that for every 10 Yoplait yogurts I buy used to buy with pink caps, only a little more than 2 of those caps make any difference in the actual fight against breast cancer. *cue sad, disappointed music*
 
Moral of the story?

I think we can all agree that breast cancer is bad. Really bad. But you know what's even worse? All cancer. Let's ditch the pink and focus on finding a cure for all cancers by giving our funds directly foundations who are good stewards of that money.


  
P.S. Here's a link to about the only legitimate breast cancer awareness material that should be kept circulating all year long: How to perform a breast self-exam.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Who Has Two Thumbs and Likes Voting?


This guy!

It's true, I love voting. I love doing my civic duty. It makes me feel all accomplished and proud to be an American. (I am not however proud that whenever I say I'm proud to be an American, I hear Lee Greenwood singing "God Bless the U.S.A." in my head. I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm freeeeeeeee.)

Over the last couple weeks, Andy and I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our mail ballots. Because our county is so rural, the county made a switch to mail ballots for all residents except those who live immediately in the county seat long before I started voting. It's a pretty handy system. We get our ballots a couple weeks before the election, have the ballots witnessed by another registered MN voter (or a notary) and then make sure the ballots are mailed in by election day. It's a system that makes it really easy to participate in the democratic system (and shouldn't a democratic system be easy to participate in if it's to function properly?) and as far as I can tell, it's almost impossible to commit voter fraud since you only get one ballot per registered voter. I suppose I could show up at an actual polling station and try to vote again, but honestly, voting once enough for this gal.

I filled out my ballot last night and today my ballot will be winging its way down to the courthouse to be opened and counted on election day. There are a lot of issues and races on the 2012 ballot that I care passionately about, but there's one particular ballot question that's really got my teeth on edge:

"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?" 

Let's look at this carefully. On the surface, this looks pretty reasonable. Benign, even.

I mean, I'm a U.S. citizen and I have a photo id, so this shouldn't affect me at all. But wait a minute, when I cast my vote last night, I didn't show a photo id to anyone. I show Andy my blank ballot, I filled out the ballot privately, and then Andy witnessed it.

If this amendment passes, it could mean the end of mail ballots. It could mean that I have to show up at a polling station on election day to cast my vote. Let's consider that the nearest polling station to me is 55 miles away. Let's also remember that early November is not exactly known for sterling weather. In future years, if this amendment passes and if we happened to have a massive snow storm on election day, there's a good chance that I won't cast my vote that year.

Allow me to toot my horn for a little bit here to illustrate my point:
  • I have a college education.
  • I have voted in every election since I became eligible. (Except for this year's primaries, which caught me by surprise - why so early with the primaries this year Minnesota?)
  • I have watched the Republican nomination process from the get-go, listened to both the Democratic and Republican conventions, and have listened to every presidential debate this year. 
  • I am not a felon. 
  • I wouldn't know how to commit voter fraud even if I wanted to commit some.
As a state, we should not be making it harder for voters like me to vote. We should not be making it harder for minorities and seniors to vote. If anything, we should be making it easier for people to vote. This is America after all, where we value everyone's voice. Right? Right?!

The biggest issue I have with this potential constitution amendment is that we have absolutely no idea what ramifications would come with passing of this amendment. We don't know if it would mean the end of mail ballots. We don't know if the county would have to spend funds they don't really have to construct more polling stations - which would have to have handicapped bathrooms and various other amenities to make them legal polling stations. We're not even sure what constitutes a valid photo id. All we know is that we'd have to show id before we vote, but we don't even know how we'd have to show voter id.

As Mary Jane Morrison, a Hamline Law Professor, said about this amendment, "This deserves an F."

Proponents of this bill say it will cut down on voter fraud. But I've yet to hear any terribly compelling numbers and arguments about voter fraud in Minnesota.   

If you ask me, this has more to do with Republicans consistently losing elections by itty bitty margins (i.e. Coleman vs. Franken, Emmer vs. Dayton) then it does about cracking down on voter fraud. Heck, if the Republicans just get rid of a few hundred voters by passing this amendment, maybe the votes in these tight races will start tipping in their favor. 

Cynical, much?

But this shouldn't be a partisan issue. This is an issue that will effect every voter in Minnesota. And if you have two thumbs and like voting, please consider this amendment carefully before voting. This is a very vague amendment that could have negative repercussions for all of us. 


   

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Truth About Deer Season

Life is full of surprises. If, just a few years back, you'd told me that deer season would be a pivotal moment in my life each autumn, I would have laughed you out of town.

But life with Andy means life with deer season and I think I've transitioned into my role as deer season widow rather seamlessly. I've learned to like venison. I've learned to make a mean sausage.

But I'm still learning. The take away lesson from Deer Season 2012 to date is that deer season doesn't really start on the date determined by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. (Which, for the record, the firearms deer season begins on November 3 this year and goes until sunset on November 18.) No, deer season actually starts on some arbitrary date in early October.

And that makes some of the cabin inhabitants very happy indeed. 
 
A couple weeks back, Andy proposed a spontaneous overnight trip down to "the big city" to "get away for a little while." Our night "out on the town" ended with us sitting in our hotel room, eating potato chips and ice cream purchased from a gas station because we were both too exhausted to actually go out. By early the next morning it was apparent that Andy's true motivation for the trip wasn't really fun and games. Nope, the trip was strictly business. He wanted to pick up a new rifle and scope in time for deer season. (See above).
  
I really had no idea what happens when your significant other buys a new deer rifle. 

Here's what happens:

Suddenly your significant other starts picking you up from work all the time. But instead of heading home, you end up in a gravel pit or a shooting range so he can sight in his rifle - aka shoot the gun a gazillion times, while making minor adjustments to his scope to make sure the rifle shoots accurately. Your job? Using your keen eyesight and the spotting scope (at left in picture above) to tell him where he hit the target after each shot. This continues until it's nearly dark and the smiles of the picture below are distant memories.
Once the rifle is sighted in, you'll breathe a sigh of relief. . . only to realize that it's time to start scouting for deer season. This means your significant other still picks you up at work, but this time you get to crash through the dense forest until twilight, following skinny little deer paths, watching for buck signs such as scrapes and rubs, all while you're still wearing your work shoes.

Each evening, about 9 p.m., your significant other will announce that it's time for a "deer drive." These exploits usually take .5 - 1 hours and involve driving slowly down the road, watching for wildlife along the shoulders. You'll see foxes, bunnies, even a raccoon, and plenty of deer, and every time you see a buck during one of these drives, your significant other will be so excited that he'll chatter incessantly until you've both stayed up way too late. 

Oh, does it sound like I'm complaining? 

While I'd be lying if I said deer hunting didn't try my patience at times, I'm not so selfish that I don't see the value of Andy wanting to share one of his favorite times of the year with me. There may be times when my eyes glaze over when he goes on (and on) about rifle and scope characteristics. There are most definitely times when I wish I had more appropriate footwear on. But the truth about deer season is that I don't mind that much. There's a gentle lulling quality to our deer drives together and I'm happy to support Andy in his excitement and ambition this time of year.

Life is full of lessons and surprises.And I'm still busy relearning October and November as the partner of a deer hunter.
 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Can You Can It? Yes, You Can!

I'm pretty lousy at phone conversations. When people pose the inevitable questions of, "So, what's new with you?" I always clam up. "Work, make dinner, sleep, repeat" is all that ever pops into my mind as an answer. Luckily, when I was chatting with my friend Betsy, she helped me flush out my usual lame answer. "I notice that you've been canning all the food," she said.

Why yes, I did can all the food this summer. The proof is in the pudding . . .err, in the mason jars really. Here's a run down of everything that made a trip through my hot water bath canner in the last three months or so:

Peach Salsa

 8 pints. Recipe from yours truly, but with some pointers from Ball's Blue Book of Preserving to help ensure that it's safe for the hot water bath canner. I sure hope we don't get botulism. So far so good.

Applesauce
8 pints. No real recipe here- just a splash of water to get the apples cooking (and not sticking), then sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste. Applesauce has to be one of the simpler pleasures in life. So good when stirred into oatmeal, or eaten straight out of the jar.

Barbeque Sauce

6 pints. A double batch of the "Best Barbecue Sauce" from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. We use a fair amount of it during the summer grilling season and one pint jar is just the right amount for a batch of pulled pork sandwiches.

Blueberry Butter
8 half pints. Recipe from Food in Jars. I wanted to get some of the berry harvest into jars but I'm not a huge fan of just plain blueberry jam. (I mean, I'll eat it but . . . ) so this seems like a good, less sugary alternative. It really does taste like blueberry pie on toast. 

Blueberry Pie Filling
4+ quarts. Or you could just can some blueberry pie filling. This recipe merges my pie filling recipe and a recipe specially for canned blueberry pie filling.  Because I'm a cranky old lady before my time, I will not share the recipe, but will tell you that it involves sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.

Bread and Butter Pickles
5 pints. We had a bumper crop of cucumbers this year and I wanted to make pickles for the first time. This is my coworker's mother's recipe and it is delicious. I was especially pleased that the cucumbers retained most of their crispness. Not sure if that's because I added "pickle crunch" (calcium chloride) while they soaked, or if homemade bread and butter pickles just have less problems with getting "soggy." 

Dilly Beans
4 pints. We were also up to our ears with green beans in September, so when I could not chop, blanch, or freeze another green bean, I made a batch of dilly beans. (Recipe from Food in Jars.) I would have liked for the beans not to have floated, but oh well. Next year, I will definitely make more because Andy and I opened up a jar earlier this month basically inhaled the contents in about 10 minutes. I'm not proud.

Pickled Jalapenos
3 pints. Recipe from Food in Jars. A very simple recipe to preserve jalapenos for chilis, tacos, enchiladas and more all year. We actually don't use that many of these. I just feel bad letting jalapenos go to waste.

Dill Pickle Relish 
7 half pints. Another happy result of the cucumber bumper crop. Recipe from Tasty Kitchen. I did cut the amount of celery seed in the recipe in half because I don't much care for celery seed. It's definitely more like the sweet relish you buy in stores as opposed to store bought dill relish, but it is still darn tasting on a bratwurst. Which is a relief, considering that we have 7 jars of it.

Peach Jam
4 pints. Very basic peach jam, recipe straight from the Sure-Jell package. I love peach jam, but I'm feeling a need to shake things up a little next year and maybe try one of those bourbon vanilla peach jam recipes I see floating around the blogosphere. Funny, I was gifted with a couple jars of peach jam from other canners this summer, so we've got plenty of peach jam for the winter. (We still had some leftover from last year when I made this batch.) Quick, give me all your baking recipes that call for a jar of peach jam!

Raspberry Jam
4 pints. Oh beautiful, lovely raspberry jam. I love raspberry jam and yes, children of the 90s, I would marry it. This is another recipe straight from the Sure-Jell packet and I feel absolutely no desire to attempt to "improve" upon it. Raspberries, sugar, and a bit of pectin are all you need to make me very happy. Every summer I swap blueberries with my mom to get enough of her homegrown raspberries for a batch of jam. And then I don't share it.

Apple Cider Syrup 

6 half pints. I was hoping to find some "real" apple cider this fall so I could try out a batch of Marisa McCellan's Apple Cider Syrup. We made an impromptu trip to the big city last week and I got to stock up on cider. I'm not much of a coffee drinker and my favorite drink at Caribou is actually the Hot Apple Blast. This syrup can be used as a base for a hot apple cider drink - just add water for Hot Apple Blasts all winter long! The syrup is also very good drizzled over ice cream and I imagine would be pretty yummy on waffles or french toast too.


Pear Vanilla Jam 

4 pints. Final canning project of the year until marmalade season next January. Recipe from Food in Jars. It's a lovely gentle jam, which works just fine in a PB&J sandwich. However, I think this jam's true destiny is on the appetizer plate next to some baked brie.

Now all the jars are filled up (whew!) and I get to see back and nosh on the fruits of my labors. It's a very delicious feeling indeed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stability vs. Taking Chances

I know you've been wondering. You've been thinking to yourself, Ada's summer season is wrapping up just about now, isn't it? Doesn't she usually post something about this time each year where she bitches and moans about how hard seasonal work is, worries about her finances, feels guilty about her lack of creativity over the summer, and in general decides that being an adult is tricky business? The answer is YES(!) and I know you've been wondering where that post is for year 2012. 

Well, wonder no more, because here you go!

Errr, or not.

Although I'm none too happy that the weather has turned grey and cold (why yes, I have worn long underwear to work all this week) and that snow no longer seems far off, I'm actually pretty content with the direction my life will take when I finish up with my seasonal full-time work on Sunday. There's much to look forward to as I transition into the winter season: more time for my personal business ventures of freelance writing and Etsy, season tickets to Broadway Across America (starting with Beauty and the Beast this Wednesday!), crafting weekends and other get-togethers, and a trip to Ireland in April that's almost completely saved up for. I'm rather pleased.


Although I have a hard time admitting it to myself, part of this contentment and security that I'm experiencing is because I am thisclose to accepting a two-year, salaried contract with my current employer. Over the past few Octobers, while I've been ecstatic to transition into my work-from-home portion of the year, I've been plagued by fears that I'm playing it safe, not trying hard enough, stuck at the end of a dead-end road, etc. etc. I've always felt that I have to take a big scary leap into the unknown to really prove myself. I've worried that if I'm not taking huge chances, then I'm not really living the life I imagined.

Then I remember that I'm a go with the flow sort of gal and that the closest I've come to a "life plan" is some hazy idea that maybe I'd sit in an East Coast cubicle as a magazine editor and that maybe I'd like to be married and start having children when I was 27. Since I'm remarkable wrong on both those counts, I think, at long last, it's time to release those hazy imaginings of yesteryear. Things aren't going the way I thought they would, but doesn't make things bad.

So I am not going to quit my day job because:
I like travel and the occasional dinner out
I'm a fan of health insurance
I enjoy being able to save for an exciting place known as "The Future!"
I still learn helpful things from the job and there's room for creativity and innovation
Despite the emotional tug of war that comes from running a business that's not truly your own, I'm the boss. Yup, I am.

You know, financial security is nothing to be sniffed at. Whenever I think that I'm not being very brave or that I'm not true to myself by sticking with this here day job, I remember that I gain more and more freelance clients every year and I've even managed to turn my knitting hobby into a teeny little business that keeps me in yarn money. How am I not being true to myself if I'm consistently carving out time in my life for things that make me happy without falling into a financial tailspin? Isn't that all any of us really want?

There's dissonance between what I think I should want from life and what I really want. If I'm being honest, all I really want is self sufficiency.

I don't need a fancy job. I don't need letters behind (or in front of) my name. I don't need a big house.

I want to be my own boss. Make my own food. Travel when I want. Have the financial security to feel unlimited and secure. Really, I've made fantastic strides towards all of those things in the last few years.

So I'm going to going to take a chance on stability and stop looking at it as being "stuck." Instead, I'll focus on all the doors that have opened and continue to be opened by sticking it out in my current situation.And I'll let change slowly seep into my life.

At this moment I don't feel pushed to take some bold, big move. It's enough to know that I have bold, big moves inside me. Moves I can pull out when the time for taking chances is just right.
 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Shop Update: Autumn Products

YesSirYesSir!
My knitting needles have been clacking away, trying to fill my Etsy shop with all sorts of autumn themed items. I love the products I've developed, but lately we've been waking up to a powdered sugar world, with both frost and, yes, snow, clinging to grass and rooftops, making me question the timeliness of these products. I find it awfully hard to come to terms with snow in October, but it's a good reminder that it's probably time for me to ditch the falling leaves motifs and move on to designing holiday products, as well getting to work on my Christmas knitting queue. 

But if you're in a kinder place in the world where the snow is still holding off, I have some great items for you to add to your fall wardrobe.

I made a pretty green heather lace with leaf pattern

And an autumn hued circlet of leaves:
 

The item I'm most excited about adding are these fingerless gloves. Because I work in an old drafty weather, fingerless gloves are a Godsend during the chilly weather of the shoulder seasons. They allow me to function normally, without my fingers freezing to the bone. I'm so excited to have design this pair, which I think are not only functional, but also stylish. These are designed for a close fit to allow your hands a full range of motion while you're wearing them: they won't turn you into all thumbs like mittens or bulkier fingerless gloves. Because these gloves are meant to fit snugly, just let me know if you need a different size or if you have a color preference and I'll get to work making the perfect gloves for you.
Happy Monday!
 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Pinned It, I Did It: Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken

Mama’s Losin’ It

One of the downsides of living in the woods is that you're a long, long ways from takeout food. Growing up "in town" we had one option for takeout - pizza from the local (and kind of infamous) pizza joint. Since my family considered this pizza overpriced tourist fare, we inevitably made our own pizza rather than ordering out. Now that I live a good hour away from town, dining options are even more limited. Sure, there are a couple restaurants in the woods, but with Andy and I penny-pinching to the max this summer, if we have a craving for a certain restaurant food, we try to recreate it at home.

I've been working for a while to recreate my Chinese takeout favorites, a love that harkens back to my college days. Although my friend and I always hit up the Chinese buffet whenever I visit her in the Cities, do we even want to know what ingredients they use at the buffet?! Making the dishes at home allows me to enjoy them with a slightly less guilty dietary conscience. But it's not easy to find recipes that hits all of the notes necessary to really make my Chinese takeout chimes ring. To date, I've found a good (although unconventional) sweet and sour sauce to use in chicken stirfry and a great recipe for beef and broccoli that I actually make with venison.   

When I saw the pin for Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken on Pinterest, I knew I had to try it. It looks pretty tempting, doesn't it?


So tempting in fact, that Andy actually called me from work on Monday to remind me to start it.

I wasn't sure if the directions were written for older and new crockpots (the highs and lows can be different temperatures on crockpots, depending on when they were manufactured), but I discovered my crockpot played well with the directions. My chicken was "just done" after two hours in the crockpot at high, just like the directions said it would be. Good to know.

I love the (grease-laden) crispy green beans they always serve at Chinese buffets, so I served some homegrown, steamed green beans on the side. Not exactly the same thing, but a much healthier alternative. Here's what our Chinese take-out ended up looking like. (Forgive the bad lighting.) 

The verdict on dinner? It was fine.

The chicken was certainly moist and tender, but the sauce needed something else if it was to move into the "this is so good" file. The sauce was sweet and salty, but with an odd aftertaste. Kind of like all the ingredients in the sauce didn't play that well together, especially after simmering together at low heat in a crock pot for a few hours.

The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of ketchup, which I questioned from the get-go. Maybe the ketchup was there for tang, but it only seemed to add a strange sweetness. Andy recommended using less honey the next time I make it (which, honestly, I'm not sure I will), but I think I'd stick with the same amount of honey and instead add some vinegar or lemon juice to cut the sweet and give the sauce some more complexity. Instead of ketchup, I might opt for some plain ol' tomato sauce.

So there you have it. A perfectly fine dinner brought to you by Pinterest. But not one I would consider "company fare" or one that I would even make again without a few tweaks here and there so it better suits our tastebuds. Operation Chinese Takeout is still a work in progress. 

Have you had success with your Pinterest projects?Do you have a favorite "takeout" recipe that you make at home?
 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rabbit, Rabbit

Well, hello there October! Where the heck did you come from?!

Does anyone else welcome in the new month by saying "Rabbit, rabbit?"  I adopted the tradition/superstition years ago when I watched the Nick Days blurb on Nickelodeon about how it supposedly brings good luck all month if you say "rabbit, rabbit" first thing on the first day of the month. (You know you were raised in the 90s when . . . )  According to Wikipedia (oh font of all knowledge) this superstition originated in Great Britian, probably in the late 1800s, and has since spread to all English speaking countries. I made sure the first words out of my mouth this morning were "rabbit, rabbit" so now I'm set with good luck all month. ;)

Speaking of Nickelodeon (is it even on the air anymore?!), why is it that I can remember all the words from the "Good Burger" skit on All That ("Welcome to Good Burger. Would you like a Good Burger? Can I take your order, please?"), but I can't remember the capital of Kazakhstan, which I did a report on some time in middle school . . . roughly the same time period as when I was watching (apparently) way too much Nickelodeon. And I can still hear the Nickelodeon jingle: Nick-a-looow-de-on!  Hmmm, suddenly I understand why I didn't get into Yale . . .

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MOVING ON . . .

All I really wanted to say was, "Happy October!"  I've reached the end of my marathon work schedule, which means that today is the first of two whole days off . . . in a row. I'm pretty giddy about the prospect of this newly found free time. Of course there are plenty of projects vying for my time already, but for the time being, I'm attempting to catch up on the blogsphere. The dirty house can wait another hour or two before I give it my full attention.   

Andy and I writing off September as the lost month. Because September was such a blur, I find myself still thinking that it's the end of August. Then I head out back and wonder what the heck happened to the garden.

Apparently the garden all hopped into the freezer (I'm sure I had some hand in this, probably in a semi-conscious state after work), because our chest freezer is stuffed to the gills with green beans, tomatoes, cabbage, apples and blueberries. With the freezer being so full, Andy's been pestering me about where exactly we'd put a deer if he gets one this year. He raises a valid point. I think we have months to eat our way through the now very full freezer before we have to contend with storing 40 pounds of venison sausage, but then realize that November and deer season are next month. Yikes!

But enough. For today, I'm going to take a break from first world problems like wondering what we're going to do with all of this food and instead, spend my day soaking up the autumn colors, which I'm pretty sure peaked over the weekend. It's a cool, grey day - perfect for tea, reading, knitting, housekeeping projects and trying out new recipes for dinner. I hope you all find some time for renewal today as well. 

The view from one of Andy and my main grouse hunting hikes earlier this week

Side note: want to sponsor Of Woods and Words this October? There's still space for some more advertisers and I'm totally open to swaps. Lemme know.

Happy October! May you have good luck all month long!
 

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