Monday, December 31, 2007

A Southern Tradition

Tomorrow, Stephen (aka Yankee Boy since he ate Ritz Crackers with his chili the other night) and I will partake of an old Southern tradition. We will eat black eyed peas on New Year's Day. Usually I make a big ol' pot of black eyed pea soup. That way I can add some tomatoes, cumin, onion and what ever else suits my fancy in order to give the peas a little flavor since they don't have much of their own. Dried peas are starchy and bland but contain a fair amount of protein and, like all legumes, are often used as a meat replacement.

This year, I asked Stephen to pick up some peas at the store and he brought back a couple of cans since that is what he saw first. That's OK with me. We never eat all the soup and I end up throwing a lot of it out. Anyway, with canned peas I can make Texas Caviar. This means that I drained the peas and added red and green onions, read and green sweet peppers, some red wine vinegar and really good olive oil along with a little salt and pepper. It is now marinating in the fridge overnight and will be a quick and easy side dish tomorrow.

The tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day dates back to the Depression. It was said that if you still had peas by the first of the year, you were lucky. Some traditionalist insist on adding turnip greens and cornbread to make the meal complete but I have always settled for the peas. I make cornbread if I make the soup. You just have to have something to soak up the juice.

A man who lived in the town in which I grew up had been a young man during the Depression. Until the day he died, he said that he always tipped his hat to a pea patch because peas kept him and his family from starving to death during those hard years.

Tomorrow we will eat the peas because it is a tradition and because it is said that to do so brings good luck during the coming year. We will be reminded that there have been times when people in this country were not as fortunate as we are now and we will be grateful for our peas and for everything else we have. Mostly, we will be grateful for each other.

Photo of peas from,GGLG:2005-47,GGLG:en%26sa%3DN

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Meyer Lemons

Several people have asked about meyer lemons so here is a little information about them from Wikipedia:

The Meyer lemon (Citrus × meyeri) is a citrus fruit, native to China, thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange or sweet orange. The Meyer lemon was introduced to the United States in 1908 as S.P.I. #23028, by the agricultural explorer Frank Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China. It is commonly grown in China potted as an ornamental plant. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs, such as Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, during the California Cuisine revolution. The Meyer lemon is also known as the Valley lemon in southern Texas due to its popularity in the Rio Grande Valley region.

Here are the ones we bought this morning at the farmer's market. It seems that this is the prime time for them here in Texas and that they are a some what freeze resistant variety of citrus. These are grown in a near by town by a man who has only one tree. I have been buying from him for several weeks now. I plan to buy my own tree and keep in in a large pot.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A New Drink

I was tired and frustrated last night after the all day soap making disaster. I decided I needed a little cheering up and felt the need to create something to prove to myself I still could. I also wanted a little something sweet. Here is what I came up with:

Fill the well of a margarita glass with you favorite tequila...I used Antiqua Cruz which is so mellow that it has no bite at all making it dangerous stuff.

Squeeze a little meyer lemon juice into the tequila.

Drop a piece of candied ginger into it.

Fill the rest of the glass with Reed's Extra Ginger ginger beer.

Run the meyer lemon around the top of the glass and enjoy the drink.

The piece of ginger began to fizz as soon as I dropped it in and continued to do so until I had finished the drink.

I am sure that this would be OK with a regular lemon but nothing tastes quite like a meyer.

I would not bother to make it with regular ginger ale.

I have not thought of a name for this cocktail and am open to suggestions.

Soundtrack for this post: Herb Alpert's Tequila and I don't want to hear about Pee Wee.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'm a Lyer

Yep, I just confessed to not always being honest so I may as well come clean.

About six years ago, Stephen said that he had always wanted to try making soap. I had been wanting to try it for years but had been discouraged by a friend who had tried to make part of her living doing it and had told me that you have to had a set of pots and pans that were designated for soap making and that it was a hassle and I don't remember what else. She made it sound like way to much to deal with. However, when Stephen started talking about it, I got on line and started reading up on it. Turns out, you can use any nonreactive cookware that is big enough to hold your soap and any nonreactive vessel to hold your lye solution. After making our first batch, we were addicted to home made soap. It doesn't dry your skin since all the glycerin remains in the soap rather than being milled out like in commercial soap. (Actually, most commercial soap isn't really soap and doesn't claim to be if you read the label.)

Stephen has pretty much lost interest in the making of soap but I have continued to make it. I give away as much as we use. (I have to so that I can keep experimenting. I love working with different combinations of essential oils to come up with new scents.)

Making soap is a process that has to be approached with a certain amount of caution. In order to make true soap, you have to mix fat, water and lye. As the saying goes: no lye, no soap. When the lye and water are mixed together, it puts off noxious fumes while heating up to at least 150 degrees. I always to this outside. Then I mix my oils in my big enamel pot and heat them to 100 degrees just about the time the lye water cools down to 100 degrees. Then I get my trusty stick blender and stir until it traces (this is when it is the consistency of thick pudding and a drop makes an indention when it hits the surface). At this point, I add the essential oils that I have decided to use and pour it into molds. If I have used box molds, I score the soap as soon as it it set enough, usually between three and eight hours. The next morning I turn it out of the molds and set it in cardboard boxes lined with wax paper for about four weeks. By this time it has saponified which means that the acids in the fats have neutralized the alkaline lye and the ph is around 9. Sometimes I use plastic molds to give my bars a prettier shape. In this case, I put them in the freezer the next day and leave them up to 2 hours so that the soap will pop out. Then I put them in the boxes to cure for four weeks. I have a tried and true recipe that has never let me down. This process is known as cold process (CP) soap making and the soap looks something like this:

Today, I tried hot process (HP) for the first time. It was a dismal failure. I screwed up by not putting a lid on the soap while it was in the oven. I used my usual CP recipe as several sites I looked at said I could do but I think that may have been part of the problem. I got a big mess that looked like this after messing with this stuff all day. It looks like this:

It is funky and gunky and illustrates the old adage about home made soap and ugly. I have put it in the garage and will grind part of it up and rebatch it some day when I am really bored. I will try this again with a different recipe and this time, I'll keep a lid on it.

Soundtrack for this post: SS Bathtub, David LaMotte

I Been Tagged!

Konagod has tagged me for this meme:

I never use the word never except in past perfect tense as in " I have never....." Same with always. Never and always imply absolutes and there are seldom absolutes in this life.

I rarely assume that people like me when I first meet them. I'm usually a little surprised when they do.

I cry so seldom that I don't remember the last time I did. I know that there is value in crying and have gotten really messed up when I needed to cry and couldn't. I'm talking about not eating or sleeping for days at a time and really wishing I could just cry and get over myself.

I'm not always honest. There, I said it. If you ask me if that shirt looks good on you and I can tell that you really like the ugly assed thing, I'll lie and say that it looks great. If you ask me if someone said something nasty about you and they did and I heard it, knowing that it will just hurt you if I tell you about it, I'll say that I don't know anything about it. You get the picture.

I lose my reading glasses at least a dozen times a day.

I'm confused and I like it.

I miss Austin the way it was ten years ago before it doubled in size and I could afford to live closer to the center of town.

I need...I can't think of anything that I really need. Now if we are talking about things I want or would like to have, that's a whole nuther thang.

I should... Should is another word that has little presence in my vocabulary. It implies that something is lacking or less than perfect the way it is and that there is a certain discipline missing that needs to be adhered to in order to make things "right".

I life in this 'big 'ol goofy world.'

I pass this meme along to anyone who wants to do it.....I'd really like to read whatever Flip would come up with.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How to Get ARTZ Ribhouse Garlic Soup When...

it isn't Friday night or it is Friday night and you aren't in South Austin.

ARTZ Ribhouse is one of my favorite hangs. There is always live music and a good time is had by all. I usually go on Monday nights when it is kinda like Cheers and everybody knows my name. However, I occasionally go on Friday nights just to get me some garlic soup, since that is the only time Art makes it. (On Mondays we have to make do with the best baby backs it town.)
A couple of years a go, I got a craving for the garlic soup on a Tuesday. I decided to do a web search for some recipes and to my surprise, found the ARTZ recipe posted on several sites. I had me some soup that very night. As a service to all of you who aren't in South Austin on Friday nights, I thought I'd post this version. It tastes authentic but I have never had it served with lemon slices at ARTZ.
Serving Size : 6


1/2 C Butter

2 heads garlic -- peeled & crushed

1 lg onion -- chopped

1/2 c flour

1 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp thyme

6 c chicken broth

1 lemon, 1/2 juiced, 1/2 sliced

1/8 c fresh parsley -- chopped

Melt butter over medium heat in 3 qt saucepan. Add garlic and saute` until barely browned, about 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Add onion to pan and saute` until tender, about 3 minutes. Add flour, paprika, cayenne, white pepper and thyme and cook stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to boil over medium-high heat stirring often. Reduce heat to low. Remove 1/2 c broth from pan and process in blender with reserved garlic until smooth, 2 to 3 seconds. Return to pan. Add lemon juice and parsley and stir well. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve with croutons and sliced lemon.

I used a meyer lemon since I had one. Oh my, Mamma!

Soundtrack for this post: Guy Clark's Texas Cookin'
(I tried to post a viedo from YouTube and just could not figure it out.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Just a Little Bit Confused

I'm not a big fan of seasonal music. I do have a few songs that I like a lot. Here is my very favorite: Christmas in the Ashram written by Chris Rosser and sung by Tom Prasado Rao.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Message

"I don't like his music and I sure don't agree with most of what he said, but anyone should be able to walk down the street in this country without being shot."

This is what said my father 27 years ago upon hearing about John's death.
(Of course I told him that he most likely heard John's music every day and started naming some songs. He decided that he did like the music after all as long as someone else was doing it.)

I have to marvel at the irony that so many of our most peaceful people have such violent departures from this planet. I think that may be one of the ways in which they go on teaching us. John was certainly a great teacher/messenger. His message continues to be heard even though he physically left long ago. Maybe it still rings so clear because he left after he had stated it as clearly as he could and, having no more to say, exited in a way that put a big exclamation point at the end.

It is up to us to imagine the world the way he did.

No need to name the soundtrack to this post.


I came accros this at Taexalia and feel it is just too good not to pass on to you.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Hooter Update

I called today and was told that the little owl survived the weekend and has been taken home by one of the rehab specialist who thinks he will eventually be OK.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

In the Trees

All summer, we heard screech owls in our back yard and in the woods just behind our house. A few times, we saw a young owl in the live oaks. We searched the limbs with our flashlight a time or two. When the young owl in the tree was startled, it would fly down to the ground. We even saw a young owl on the ground a couple of times late at night. This puzzled us as we did not think that staying on the ground was safe owl behavior. (I have since learned that baby screech owls leave the nest long before they can fly and spend a lot of time on the ground. It seems that the parents still feed them and keep an eye on them. They get buack up on the branches by climbing the trees.) It has been a few weeks since we have heard the owls, probably because cooler weather has kept us in doors at night most of the time.

Friday morning around 9:30, Stephen left for work as usual. He came back to the house almost immediately. "Honey, come out here quick," he said as he opened the front door. I dropped the toast I was eating back onto my plate and hurried out. At the end of our next door neighbor's driveway sat a small owl. Seemingly oblivious to our presence, it slowly turned its head from one side to the other and back again. It did this continually. I left Stephen to watch it while I ran back inside to get my phone. I dialed 311. I just love 311. It is the best thing since 911. Both of these services do things that the phone company did when it actually had operators to whom you could talk by picking up the phone and dialing "O". The 311 dispatcher hooked me up with the local wildlife rescue.

By now, we had gotten within four feet of the owl who continued to turn its head from side to side and seem completely unaware of our presence. Kim at Wildlife Rescue asked me if I thought I could slip up on the owl, throw a towel over it and put it in a box. I said I could because I was almost close enough to touch it and it was not reacting to me at all. She warned me not to use my bare hands because owl's talons are very sharp.
We got the owl in the box and taped it up as instructed. Stephen left for work and I headed for Wildlife Rescue. Kim had told me that it sounded like the owl had a concussion. She said that it is not all that uncommon for them to fly into things and bonk their heads. Sure enough, she was able to find a head injury that I could not see even when she showed it to me. She had no idea if the owl would survive but said that the first 24 hours are critical and if it made it that long, it would have a chance. I called back yesterday morning to find that it was still alive (the person I spoke with sounded a little surprised that it was) and that they were going to try and feed it something later in the day. I'll call again tomorrow (Monday) and check on it again.

This is not my first experience with odd owl behavior. For years, I worked at San Angelo State School which is not really in San Angelo, TX but is about twenty-five miles out of town in Carlsbad, TX. Originally built in the 1930s & '40s as a sanatorium to treat TB patients, its art deco styled buildings are made of poured cement. You can still see the ridges where the frames were removed. Several of the buildings have cement window boxes which at one time housed flowers but are no longer used. Some years ago, an owl decided that one of these old window boxes was the perfect place to nest. The nest was built,, the eggs were laid and all was fine in the owl world until the eggs hatched and the sun beat down on the chicks. The nest box was on the west side of the building with no shelter. Momma owl would leave the nest and the babies would start to fry. Then they would jump out of the nest onto the ground. This would be in April, usually when our survey team was on campus. People would take bedsheets and stand under the window trying to catch the hatchlings when they jumped. They would take the ones they could save to the local animal rescue. This happened for two or three years in a row. Finally, someone in the maintenance department decided to build a roof to put over the nest. We did not know if the momma would come back to the nest with the roof over it but since the hatchlings were jumping out and having to be rescued anyway, it seemed that there was nothing to lose by giving it a try.

They waited until the eggs hatched and the momma left the nest. Then, they took a cherry picker and placed the roof over the nest and we all waited to see what would happen next. To our delight, she returned and fed the babies, raising them to flying age. After that, the yearly routine remained the same, let her build the nest and hatch the eggs, then put the roof over the nest. When I left that area almost nine years ago, she was still raising her hatchlings in the window box.

I have a souvenir of the owl. One early spring morning I went to work before day light and heard the adult owls calling to each other from the roof tops. Just as it was getting light, I took a fire escape to get into the back door of one of the buildings and found a tiny pen feather from one of the owls. I still have it. It is wrapped together with a hawk's feather (another long story) with a red chord. I keep it is a special box made by a friend and take it out for meditation ceremonies and sometimes for energy work. I consider hawks and owls my strongest totem animals and am very appreciative of their guidance and support.

The photo of the owl is from As much as I wanted to make a picture of the little guy, I did not think it wise to take time out to do so.

Soundtrack: I Am the Owl by the Dead Kennedys