Cooking Up Art website

Above and beyond the seasons, there are two times of year for me. There
is the time of growth and change and the time of hibernation. There are
those 3-4 months where everything seems asleep and changes are barely
perceptible to the eye. Then there is the rest of the year, the time of
change. Every day, every hour, there is something new to see. Now that
we’re well into Spring, I have renewed my habit of walking my
yard. It’s an incredibly comfortable pattern that I’ve peacefully
fallen into over the years.

Mornings are my time. All of Avalonne is still asleep and the house is
mine. It’s quiet and peaceful within. The Garden is another thing
entirely. Outside, it’s teeming with life and energy and change. I
usually do the dishes and make a pot of tea then leave the quiet peace
of the house to a very different kind of quiet and peace. I walk around
the yard and look at everything. I want to notice all the changes that
have happened since I last looked. How many new leaves does that
columbine have? Are any of the seeds sprouting? The pink tulips have
opened on the northern side of the yard. Is the transplanted yarrow

It’s probably my favorite time of the day.

Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!
Cooking Up Art website

I walked downtown to run some errands two days ago. I love walking
through the neighborhoods because I can watch all the little changes in
the flora and admire people’s curb appeal. I tend to alter my route a
wee bit with each trip so I can see more streets and alleys. On my
return trip, I walked down an alley where I happened upon a yard debris
recycle bin overflowing with the trimmings of a white star magnolia and
a fuchsia Camilla. I do love the smell of magnolia, so I was drawn like
a moth to flame. I often stray far afield for a chance to stick my face
in a delicious looking flower, so I wasn’t surprised to find my feet
had taken me to the bins before I knew where I was going. Once there, I
thought it was such a waste for these gorgeous flowers to wither away
in a plastic bin when I could take some home and enjoy them -- after
all, they were clearly unwanted. I began poking around for easily
carried branches and pulled several of each. I tucked them in the crook
of my arm and set off for home like the newly crowned Queen of the
Flower Fairies. As they have wilted, I’ve deadheaded them and added
fresh yellow daffodils from my own garden and continue to enjoy these
discarded beauties.

Well, it's not Japanese flower arranging, yet I love it. )
Clearly, recycling is beautiful. *beams*

Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!
Cooking Up Art website

Our verdant valley is experiencing some rather vacillating weather
patterns. The temperature is in flux, the sun is coy, the rain is
flirtatious and the hail is, well, the hail is a great exfoliant -- in
other words, all is normal and well. Regardless of atmospheric
convention, the trouble with an outdoor exfoliant is that young plants
and sprouts are too tender to withstand rigorous scouring. A mere 20
minutes after I had planted my little veggie patch, the clouds rolled
in and hail began bouncing ‘round the yard. I dashed off to the deck to
retrieve my mini greenhouses and nestled them protectively over the
little plantlets.

What are mini greenhouses? I’m glad you asked!

And here's the answer. )

Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!
Cooking Up Art website

I have a few friends who have successfully worked with this Sourdough
recipe. I, inspired by them and the thought of delicious bread, delved
wholeheartedly into this science experiment.

I have followed the directions, picked a lovely wide-mouth glass jar
with a metal latch and a rubber seal, I have my spelt flour and my warm
water and I’ve diligently cared for my little project every morning. I
began this journey on March 19th and, though the batter has a slight
vinegar scent, it has not yet frothed. Granted, he suggested the
perfect room temperature would be 21-26°C and my house is comfortably
17°. I fully expected it to take the full week rather than the few
days, yet it has been almost two weeks and I’ve seen nary a bubble.
That’s 7 cups of flour I’ve fed into this experiment with nothing to

Sadly, I’m thinking I need to quit until my house’s ambient temperature
is 21 degrees. This will likely be a couple months from now. It pains
me to do this, yet I can see no way to keep this jar at a warmer
temperature other than lock it in a room with the heat cranked which,
to my mind, is penny wise and pound foolish. I had stopped buying bread
for my husband thinking we were a week away from our own sourdough.
He’s been asking for bread the past few days, though, and I’m no closer
to joy with my starter than I was two weeks ago. I guess a $4 loaf is
still less expensive than the amount of money I’d be paying to my local
utility on the off chance I can rescue this experiment.

I’m open to suggestions.

Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!
miladycarol: (Default)
( Apr. 1st, 2009 11:12 am)
Bwahahaha! Adorable! Cute Overload makes my day!

Cooking Up Art website
Spring Soup )
I'm so happy to walk around and watch the buds of magnolias burst into
flower and see the daffodils brighten yards. My tulips are even
budding. Spring excites me.

What's your favorite part of spring?

Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!
I was very focused on the soil, the bed and the planting. What I didn't notice was what the girls were doing. I had locked them in the house for a spell while the gate was open, then I let them loose to sniff and smell. G had turned out the compost bin to fold it into the new bed, but it wasn't ready yet. Instead of returning it to the compost igloo, he dumped it in a pile of brush. I meant to cover it immediately, and I didn't. I forgot about it for a good 20 minutes. I covered it then, though. It must have been 20 minutes too late. I have two very upset little tummies. I have found regurgitated compost on the living room floor and the bed. I'm working on laundry and I've cleaned the house and lit candles to dispel the odor. I took the girls outside and we all settled on the deck on a pillow with some tea and a book. Dina launched off my lap and deposited another batch in the grass. Poor girls.

Edit: Five incidents and two laundry loads later, I have doubts if I'm in the running for the Best Puppy Mama award this year. My poor girls.
Cooking Up Art website
My Adventures in Soil )
I must say, there is nothing quite like the thrill of working in soil.
After a while, I abandoned my shovel and just shifted the earth using
my hands. It’s amazingly satisfying. I am entranced by the smell and
texture of it, and I am in love with how enriching it will be for my

Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!
Cooking Up Art website
Sunday, I had one of those moments where circumstance wakes me from my
bliss with a solid slap to the face.

Mom was here and we were sitting at the dining room table sipping tea and talking. I heard the
comforting sound of rain so I spun around in my chair to watch. What I
saw were streaks of white hail. Since I was safely inside (and not
riding my bike at 12 miles per hour, thus experiencing a very painful
exfoliation process), I sat back enjoying the beauty of the moment.
Pretty white hail falling from the sky, bouncing on the deck, the lawn,
my little seedlings… MY LITTLE SEEDLINGS! It was there that the
Universe made bold to remind me that hail on little baby plants is bad.
Very bad. I found myself dashing between the deck and the kitchen floor
bringing the poor babies to safety. I did this just in time, for next
it began to sleet.

My poor seedlings aren’t looking so well, now. I may
decide to start anew with fresh seeds, just in case these babies don’t
make it.

Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!
Cooking Up Art website

I have brought my mural room painting to the next plateau of
completion. I’m not guaranteeing it’s done, I may still make some minor
additions like highlight some leaves, add a branch, or paint something
between the door and the closet doors. I’m merely saying it’s at the
stage I feel comfortable lifting the tarp from the floor and capping
the paints.

Here they are. Please enjoy!

Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!
Cooking Up Art website

I bought the last two bricks needed to build my raised veggie bed last
night. Now, I merely need the soil. Meanwhile, the days have warmed
enough for me to begin hardening my little veggie sprouts on the deck.
While they were prolific when I first planted the seeds, they have been
flagging, of late. I feel they really want to be out in the yard. The
nights, though, are unpredictable, so I’ll just keep taking them in and

Breathe deeply,
Laugh with abandon,
Love wholly,
Eat well.

MiLady Carol
Dazzling jewelry that reflects sparkling personalities!
miladycarol: (Default)
( Mar. 18th, 2009 01:32 pm)
It’s not raining. This means I have the opportunity to dash into the yard and do some work. The grass is still far too wet for mowing, so that waits for another day.

What I did do was grab chalk, safety goggles and my sculpting tools – my marble sculpting tools, that is – and take to reconciling my raised bed issues. I measured, tried moving bricks, measured again, replaced bricks, measured yet again, made some chalk marks and then set to dividing one of my bricks in two.

These are those cast concrete, trapezoidal, retaining wall blocks, and I’ve never before tried to break one in twain. I set two other pavers on the ground with a few centimeters gap between them, then had at it with chisel and hammer for about 10 minutes. With a satisfying crack and thump, brick parted like the Red Sea. I set the first one, then I whacked about the second half trimming it a bit to fit it in the other side. Presto! All I need now is to buy the last two bricks to complete the circuit. I’ve two spaces prepared and I know they’ll fit. Maybe I’ll hit the garden store later this afternoon. It’s very exciting!

I promised a friend that I'd post how I make beans from scratch. My
method doesn't seem to cause gas in myself, nor in my husband. I've
also not heard any intestinal issues from friends that have eaten of
this recipe. If you do, please let me know.

The flatulence we experience from beans is due to sugars the beans possess that stay with
the food until they reach our large intestine where they cannot be
digested. The way I process the beans seems to help nullify these
sugars in my system. If you experience problems, try messing with the
amount of sugar and baking soda or the cooking time. I haven’t the
science to defend this, it’s all trial and error experience for me.

I use this procedure for all kinds of hard beans (black, pinto, kidney,
red, etc.). I've found that split peas, mung beans and lentils soften
too quickly for a 12 hour soak. Instead, I rinse them in cold water,
then let them sit in the colander in warm water for an hour or so
before adding them to the pot and making soup.

2 cups beans
6 cups warm water
1 pinch sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Wash the beans and pick out any hulls, shells, etc., until the water runs clear.

I boil water in my electric kettle (about 3 cups), pour it into a soup
cauldron, add another 3 cups of room temperature water, then add the
beans. This sits overnight with the lid on fully.

After 12 hours or so (I usually set the beans to soak either before I make, or when I'm
cleaning up from, supper), I use a medium heat to draw the intestinally
challenging part out of the beans.

Stay with the pot. What happens is the nasty gas bubbles up in the form of a scum. I take a spoon and
begin skimming this from the top of the beans and chucking it in the
sink. Usually, this process only takes a few minutes before there is
very little bubbling at the top. Just don't leave the pot. Any time
I've been distracted and walked away, within moments, it tends to
bubble over the lid. I just stand there, spoon at the ready, lift the
lid every few moments and look. If there's scum, I eradicate it.

Once all the scum is removed, I lower the heat to simmer with the lid on for
a couple of hours. I prefer to slow cook them to make sure every last
bit of the gas is gone.

I usually strain the beans from this liquid once they are cooked, yet it depends upon how I intend to use them. If I’ve used up most of the liquid, I might just leave them in the
thickened sauce and start adding herbs and spices. If I intend to make
soup, I drain them and start with fresh water for my base.

I’d love to hear your experiences and suggestions!
Cooking Up Art website
miladycarol: (Default)
( Mar. 16th, 2009 03:40 pm)
The yard is coming alive. I’ve plenty of daffodils blooming, I’ve seen a few wild iris, my crocus have come and mostly gone, and my wood hyacinth are exuding lovely floral scents as I walk about the deck. I’ve noticed the slow return of the black-capped chickadees and I had a woodpecker last week. I also have a pair of mating scrub jays that are busy collecting twigs from the yard to build their nest.
Cooking Up Art website

I’ve been thinking about chowder. I’m not a big fan of potato chunks,
dairy products have decided I am not their bosom friend anymore in
quantities greater than tablespoons, and clams are, well, texturally,
um… interesting, at best.

So, why am I thinking about chowder since
these are all major ingredients in it? I want to find a way to make a
tasty chowder that tastes as good to me as the chowders of my youth
smelled. I am originally from Rhode Island, home of the quahog and many
interesting ways to incorporate said invertebrates into recipes. Rhode
Island had a clear broth chowder that I distinctly remember. I also
remember experiencing some seafood bouillabaisses that were served in a
trough for the whole table to share. Both of these were far more
intriguing to me than milk based chowder.

I’ve been mulling the creation of chowder I’d like for a few days now. I walked to the local
seafood market and bought some salmon trim for the protein, sautéed an
onion, garlic, thyme and other herbs, then added chopped celery, two
tomatoes and frozen corn. Yes, I’m cheating. In my defense, fresh corn
on the cob won’t be in season for many, many months. I didn’t think my
urge for chowder would wait that long. My concoction has been simmering
in the cauldron much of the afternoon and is ready to eat.

The result: After dinner, I added more lemon juice and salt and will allow it to
simmer. It’s tasty, yet it’s lacking something. Perhaps I’ll know
tomorrow when I reheat it for lunch. It’s a recipe with promise.

miladycarol: (Default)
( Mar. 15th, 2009 04:53 pm)
Hey Everyone,

I have decided to start a blog about my adventures in cooking, baking, tea, knitting, jewelry… all the things I love to create. I figure my artistic pursuits deserved their own area yet, since they are a homogenous part of my existence, I wanted to meld them with my LJ life, thoughts and communications.

The new blog is called Cooking Up Art and I’ve arranged the posts there to feed directly into LJ. I just wanted to let you know they’ll be piping through and I hope you enjoy reading them.
It’s a lovely accent to a Vietnamese soup to sprinkle a bit of fried garlic upon it. Since we both enjoy it, I keep a jar of it on the shelf above the stove. One little jar lasts forever packed in its olive oil so I maybe make it once a year. This morning was that once. I bought a crooked elbow full of garlic cloves and spent this morning shucking, washing and chopping them. I heated the pan full of olive oil and suffused everything in the house with the pungent odor of alliums. It wasn’t until after I had finished cooking the garlic and walked into the living room that my eyes really started to water. I’d been using my onion goggles while cooking and taken them off when done, so I hadn’t realized quite how thick the air had become. I’ve opened the doors and windows and lit a few candles and things should return to order shortly. Meanwhile, I have a fresh batch of fried garlic.
miladycarol: (Default)
( Mar. 13th, 2009 06:38 pm)
I’ve been working on the foundation layer of my raised bed retaining wall. I spent a good deal of yesterday afternoon leveling, laying and shoring the base bricks. I was satisfied with my O shape and calculated the number of bricks I’d need for the second layer. I bought those today. I loaded them onto a cart, into the car into a wheelbarrow, then into the garden. I am two and a quarter bricks short. This implies two discrepancies in my math.
1. I clearly can’t count the number of bricks on the bottom and figure the proper amount for the top.
2. I clearly have messed up the foundation layer to such a degree that the bricks won’t meet on the second row.

The long and short of this is that I’ll need to work this out before I buy the soil. Back to the mud goeth I.
miladycarol: (Majestic Garden Deck)
( Mar. 12th, 2009 04:44 pm)
I spent my afternoon in the yard working on the veggie bed. I'm laying bricks where treated lumber once was. I had dug it all out two years ago, laid weed block, then run out of cash to buy the bricks and soil. I've been buying the bricks over the past year and have almost all of them. I was out there this afternoon shoring up the bricks so they lay more or less even. I'll need the soil to kind of plump up any remaining slumping ones.

Eventually, I'd love to brick in other areas of the yard and make nicer gardens there, too. I have an ornamental maple tree that I housed in a wooden barrel for 9 years. The barrel is falling apart around it and the tree has laid a tap root I'm not willing to break. I'm thinking I should just brick around the perimeter of the barrel and fill the rest in with soil. So many plans. So much dirt to move.


miladycarol: (Default)


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