Monday, February 23, 2009

Finishing the Sun Room

I suppose that I should call this redecorating the sun room, but somehow the sun room never got 'decorated' to start with. Let me explain. Originally the sun room was a porch, then a screened in porch. About 4 years ago the kitchen ell was gutted and renovated. Walls moved, a bathroom added, new drywall, cupboards, appliances, counter tops sinks and faucets, lighting - the whole shebang. As a part of that renovation, the floor of the porch was raised, new windows and insulation added and the sliding door from the kitchen to the porch removed. Viola! a sun room.

I had great plans about how the sun room should look. many things it didn't turn out as I planned. The first hiccup was the tray ceiling. There was supposed to have been a cut out in the corner for the china cupboard to fit into. Somehow that never happened. The cupboard was too tall to fit into the corner so it was never placed where it belonged. Instead it was plopped on the long wall and stuck out like a sore thumb. Then there were the colors I picked for the wall and trim. I managed to choose Antique White and Country White; two shades of cream that managed to make each other look curdled. The third issue was the window valances. I had miles a great windows and the fabric, but I dithered and fussed over the pattern of the valance. Usually that type of indecision on my part means I'm not happy with choices I have. There was no way I was going to cut into good fabric until I had the pattern for the window figured out.

That's the way the situation stood for 4 years. A nice room that didn't live up to it's potential and had a bad habit of attracting 'stuff.' Finally, the situation has changed. The cutout in the tray ceiling now exists. The wall color has changed to Meadowland -one shade lighter than the kitchen's Cactus- and the china cupboard finally resides where it always was supposed to have been. Oh yes, the pattern for the window treatment has been selected and made. Natasha very kindly helped me trace and cut it out. The fabric is still not cut, but it will be soon.... OK, the sun room still isn't finished but it's a lot closer to being done than it ever has been.

Lizzie had to poke her head into the sun room to find out what I was doing. That is she in the bottom of the picture.

No recipe today- perhaps tomorrow!

Friday, January 30, 2009

January 30, 2009

Natasha was here this morning for her English lesson. Natasha is my cousin’s daughter-in-law, a lovely young Russian woman. She is a delight to work with, but I wish I were a bit more experienced with teaching ESL. As it is; I am winging it, working on pronunciation and vocabulary. Consonant clusters, silent letters and the hated ‘th‘–voiced and unvoiced- are problems she has to deal with. There is no easy way. She just has to plow through, and do her best. With time and practice she will do very well. It is too bad that she is a bit shy about using her English around new people, which is why I wish she could get a job. If she were in the work place everyday, she would have to use her English constantly and that would improve her speaking ability very quickly. Also she needs to be around other young women to socialize. She is an outgoing and happy person who should have a group of other women to laugh and do things with. Humm…. this is something to think about.

Lizzie- my poodle- went to the groomer today. She no longer looks like Mrs. Fuzzie Wuzzie. It had been over ten weeks so she no longer resembled a poodle- more like the hairy beast with curls. Her topknot parted and drooped over her eyes, and she had to peer through the ragged bangs to see. She now looks like a respectable poodle again. Although she has decided that clean, non-hairy paws and snow don’t mix. She went outside and very quickly was at the back door dancing in distress. “My paws are freezing!” She may not like clean, non-hairy paws, but I do. Snow sticks to poodle fur like glue, wiping hairy paws is a major chore, non- hairy paws is breeze. I suppose if I were a really good owner I would get her some snow booties, but the thought of searching a yard covered with a foot of snow for a dog’s snow booties isn’t on the agenda. Loosing a bootie or two in the yard is exactly what she would do. I wonder if they have the doggie equivalent of ‘idiot mittens’. You know, the ones with strings attached so that a kid doesn’t lose his mittens. Perhaps four strings attached to the collar? Knowing Lizzie, she would wind up tangled up in the underbrush of the evergreens.

No recipe tonight, tomorrow I may make some banana bread. Two of my bananas are a bit over-ripe.

Banana Bread

Dee Robertson is the source for this recipe. The first banana bread that actually tastes the way I always imagined banana bread ought to taste. Her daughter, Holly, very nicely shared the recipe with me. I think it is a winner.

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
2 eggs

Mix together and then add:

3 tablespoons buttermilk*
1 cup mashed ripe bananas

Sift together in another bowl:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

Stir flour mixture into banana mixture, pour into a greased and floured bread pan and let stand for 20 minutes before baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.

*If you don’t have buttermilk, make sour milk:
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Allow to sit for several minutes then measure out 3 tablespoons for the recipe.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Introduction- January 26,2009

First, an explanation of the name. My home is a northern Indiana land grant farm established in 1847. The house and barn were built on the highest point on the land. Unfortunately that point is much too close to the road for modern tastes. But for 75 to 100 years the road was little more than a two wagon ruts with a green space between them, at least that’s what my grandmother said. When the road was graveled, much less paved, I don’t know. My family didn’t move here until the early 1960’s and it was paved then. The neighbors across the road were a bunch of cows who liked to hang out in the corner of their pasture directly in front of our living room window. I secretly suspected that they enjoyed watching us rather like we enjoy peering at the animals in zoos.
Today, we look out on a wall of pines and narrow drive way. The pasture and privacy we used to enjoy long gone, and cars zip along the road using it as a short cut to town.

Ok, hill is explained. “Why toad?” you ask. Simple, we have lots of toads, little bitsy, light green ones who somehow manage to get into the house or spend time hopping across the window screens or the back deck. There are also larger brownish bumpy ones, who live in the yard and flower gardens. Some of these larger ones are amenable to having their heads or necks scratched. Hence the name Toad Hill.

January has been very cold and snowy. I know- nothing new in that. January in northern Indiana is cold and snowy, but usually there are breaks. It warms up a bit, the snow melts then it gets cold again and the landscape is rather brown and dreary looking. This year has been a bit too white and Christmas cardish for my taste. My cousin and her family came to dinner tonight. She works late on Monday so I make dinner for them. This week it was Italian, Fettuccini with red stew meat sauce, tossed green salad, homemade poppy seed dressing, garlic bread and date nut pudding with whipped cream. It is about the only full meal I make all week. I enjoy cooking so preparing a meal for them is a pleasure. Now, if I had to do it every night. It would get old very fast. Once a week that’s fun and I enjoy the company. Besides Lizzie- my standard poodle- enjoys my cousin’s dogs for her it is instant playtime. Although she did snarl, when Jazz- a sheltie- tried to help her clean her goodies plate. After we eat, each of the dogs gets about a tablespoon worth of leftovers, i.e. goodies plate. Jazz is a fast eater and… oh phooey, she is a food hound and wants all of the goodies. Lizzie made it very clear that Jazz was supposed to buzz off. Poor Gretchen –miniature schnauzer- would have lost her plate to Jazz had my cousin not intervened.

Here is an easy, homey, Midwestern dessert, good with a cup of coffee.

Date Nut Pudding
This is my favorite version of a very old recipe. It is a very moist cake somewhat like a snack cake. At one time this recipe might have been steamed rather than baked, which might explain why it is called Date Nut Pudding.

1 cup chopped dates
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon soda
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoons salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ cup chopped nuts
Pour boiling water over dates and soda. Let stand till it is just warm. Mash your dates then stir in remaining ingredients except nuts. When smooth and blended, add nuts and pour in to a greased 8" square pan. Bake at 375 degrees approximately 25 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.