Friday, October 12, 2018

Happiness is a pop of color

CHMusings: kitchenThe older I get the more I realize how much I like color: especially bright colors, but also softly muted ones, pastels, and all their variations.

I love colors. When I think back, as a kid, I was always enamored with a brand new box of crayons or my favorite, now vintage, Venus Paradise colored pencils. I wonder what ever happened to those. Today, I’m keenly aware that colors really do seem to make me happy. Perhaps they always did.

When I decided to give my drab kitchen a face lift, I thought about all the colors now available.

The first place I looked for inspiration was at the huge variety of colorful Kitchen Aid mixers. I don’t happen to have one, but their color range now is simply amazing. Not only did I look at appliance colors, but I also Googled kitchen remodels and looked on Pinterest. One particular color caught my eye; turquoise. The first time I saw a turquoise kitchen was on the TV Show “Mistresses,” an ABC production a few years ago, starring Alyssa Milano. It was canceled in 2016 after a run of several years. The trendy turquoise kitchen belonged to the show’s character April, played by Rochelle Aytes. It was so striking that I had remembered it. So when I was thinking of colors for my own kitchen that was in the back of my mind.

CHMusings: teapot
I decided to add a few turquoise things to accessorize my dull kitchen. It only took a few things to make me realize, I really do love this color. There are lots of different variations to it, which ranges from a little more blue to a little more green. I like them all, no matter the shade. When I look at the color on my new teapot, for example, it is almost like a visionary mouth-watering sensation.

For many years, our Ozarks home was pretty much colorless in my view. In fact, every room in our house was beige. A couple of the rooms had beige patterned wallpaper, but most of the walls had no color; they were that standard slap-a-coat-of-paint-on-the-drywall color. I suppose it was off-white, but might as well have been beige. Floors were carpeted in beige. Even the appliances were “biscuit,” another word for beige.

My penchant for color has been mentioned in previous blog posts, such as this one where I detailed the remodeling of our sun porch. It was the first introduction to turquoise into our house. There are now turquoise touches throughout. We painted over the pale pink that had been on the walls on the porch. Now, the color scheme is turquoise and hot pink. It is rather whimsical with a pink flamingo theme.

CHMusings: sunshine bedroom
I also painted the bedroom a bright, sunshiny yellow. It is like waking up inside a smiley face. What a great way to start the day. This room made me realize I no longer have one favorite color. I love them all. The accent color is turquoise, designed around one of my favorite quilt projects that highlighted the dual color scheme.
CHMusings: yellow/turquoise quilt

Color matters because I  quilt

I credit my love of color today to my being a quilter. I think the selection and use of different fabric has sharpened my appreciation of colors and how they work together. My favorite quilts remain monochromatic, but I’m also enjoying the experimentation of mixing colors together. This appreciation reminds me of the way my camera’s view finder honed my visual perspective. I find color, particularly bright colors, to be uplifting.

I can’t think about the colors of my home without giving some thought to my quilting projects. For me the, “which came first,” question, relates to decorating the room or making the quilt. I suppose that just like the chicken and the egg, the two go hand-in-hand. Each room is decorated with color and at least one quilt.

CHMusings: turquoise table runner
So since quilts don’t seem to work in the kitchen, I settled for a table runner. I recently completed the one pictured here, which brightens up the room and adds a splash of color where it is needed most.

This project had a dual purpose. It is the first project I have made in a very long time. It marks a return to my beloved hobby.

For more information on making this quilt, check my my quilting blog, for details on this project.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Housework is hazardous; not doing it again

closet pic
All clean, lots of room now
In the midst of cleaning out my closet, I smelled a funny smell. I wasn’t sure what it was. I know that at times, one or more of my cats sneaks into the closet at night. They know how to open the wooden bi-fold doors. In fact, they are pretty darned good at it. I wondered if perhaps they had forsaken their litter box. But thankfully, I knew this was not a cat-related smell. With six cats: four inside, one inside-outside, and one outside, I know ‘that’ smell. This wasn’t it.

I decided to clean out my closet because I have just plain run out of room. I keep seeing signs that now is the time. I’ve taken notice of various emails from well-meaning organizers and self-help gurus. I’ve seen ads on Facebook about cleaning up and cleaning out. And it dawned on me that I washed my clothes last week but have kept running into the laundry room for clean clothes. I just never put them away. There was no good place to put them due to the frustration of reaching for a blouse hanging in the closet only to take it out and find it needs to be ironed because it was crammed in so tightly with everything else.

Then, a friend of mine decided to clean out her closet. She had been sick and lost some weight. She is no longer my size, but she used to be. So, when she offered to give me some of her clothes, I was happy. I am not a clothes hound and rarely buy anything new, so this would be great. When I got home though, I wondered where I would put them.

All signs pointed to the need to go through my clothes and get rid of the things I no longer wore. I still had clothes dating back 20 years when I worked for a living. I was a journalist and had to have a decent wardrobe. I had always reasoned that they were just too good to throw out.

As I started going through my closet, I tried to think of the coming winter and what would keep me warm on those cold, winter evenings. I thought about the few things that I’d bought in the last several years. Those were all keepers. Then I looked through the rest. I tried to not think about the memories or the circumstances of when I bought them or who may have given them to me. The pile on the floor continued to grow. The closet still wasn’t very roomy, so I did it again, with a little less regard for the past. I was thinking only of the present and perhaps the future.

Another thing I did was dump those wire coat hangers. Oh, I’ll keep them in the garage because they often come in handy for things other than holding clothes, but they no longer have a home in my closet. This is a real plus because I’ve always thought them to be completely annoying as they bent into the oddest configurations and seemingly wound themselves around one another into a tangled metal sculpture. Who needs that?

All the while I was doing this, I this odd smell persisted. I poked my nose into the depths and it seemed stronger in the corners. But I could see nothing. Then I looked up. There was a pillow form I was saving for a project sitting next to the light bulb. It was smoking! I grabbed it and ran it under the faucet.

I almost made fast work of cleaning out the closet, by burning it down. Thank goodness I caught it in time. I know I’m not in the mood to evacuate a disabled husband, four inside and one inside-outside cats, my computer, and whatever important papers I might grab.

So much for cleaning house. It is dangerous. I’m not doing it!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Exploding egg whites—who knew?

I certainly never knew an egg could explode in my frying pan!

But that was just what happened to me this morning. I’ve cooked eggs for breakfast for years and never had such an experience. I’ve had eggs bubble up and pop and sputter in the pan, but this was different. It was positively explosive, even audibly. 

I like my eggs over-easy, but sometimes that causes the yolks to break. A broken yolk ruins my day, so I’ve begun covering the pan to allow the moisture of the egg to condense and essentially cook the yolk. Done right, the result is much like an over-easy egg, but guarantees the yolk remains in-tact. 

In this morning’s incident, just as soon as I picked up the lid, one of the eggs blew up, splattering onto the lid, spraying my upper arm, and on as well as around the stove. Oh, and the yolk was broken on one of the two eggs. The other was undaunted.

While I’m not accustomed to taking photos of dirty dishes, the picture at left, shows the remnants of my egg explosion. Some splattered in the pan, cooked by residual heat after I turned off the burner. There were portions of egg white on the counter and splattered onto the frying pan lid. The only thing not pictured was my arm where the bulk of the egg landed like shrapnel. I wiped it away quickly so I wouldn’t be burned.

What the heck happened?

My eggs were seemingly fresh, just purchased from a store that sells eggs from free-range chickens raised by local farmers.

One of the first things I did was to Google exploding eggs. Most problems with exploding eggs are associated with hard-boiled eggs in the microwave without puncturing the yolk to let the steam escape. That is a very different problem, since egg yolks condense when heated while egg whites expand. From what I can glean, this isn’t as unique as I thought. Simply, fresh eggs contain more moisture. The longer they sit, as do store-bought eggs, the more moisture is absorbed. I plan to exercise caution with my next breakfast adventure, including turning down the heat.

By the way, despite the broken yoke and somewhat unkempt egg white, breakfast was delicious.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

If life is a bowl of cherries, I’ve been missing out

bowl of cherries

No more! I’ve always liked sweet cherries, but rarely bought them because eating them is so much trouble. When I did buy them, I would bring them home, wash them, and prepare for standing a long time at the kitchen sink.

cherry pitterTo pit them, I’d use a paring knife, cut them in half and use whatever was available to pull out the pit. Sometimes I just cut the cherries into quarters to make it easier to get the pit. Either way, it was a messy, tedious job. I tried some of the many tips I’d heard about, such as using a plastic drinking straw to push the pit through, but that was a no solution, solution.

Then one day, I found a cherry pitter online that looked like a marvelous tool. Oh, and marvelous it was. In fact, I might even say it was life-changing.

This little tool has made cherry pitting so simple that it takes no time at all to process an entire bowl full of cherries. It doesn’t stain my fingers.
I’m thrilled to be eating these delicious summertime treats.

cherry pitting
Using the tool is simple. Just line up the cherry and squeeze. The pits just fall out.
I like to take a sheet pan, line it with parchment paper, and add the pitted cherries in a single layer, to be placed into the freezer.

Once frozen, I put the cherries into freezer bags to be used when needed.
Whether I want just a few to be added to a smoothie, or in quantity for a special dessert, they are easily accessible. Because they are frozen individually, they remain separated.

I hate to throw anything away, so I even use leftovers to make cherry pit vinegar.

For this tasty addition to salads, I take 1/2 cup of cherry pits. (whole, uncracked pits only), put them into a mason jar. Cover them with 2 cups of red or white wine vinegar. Let it sit overnight. Strain it and discard the cherry pits. The vinegar can sit at room temperature for a year. Cherry pit vinegar can be used to make a tasty vinaigrette or even as a drink with club soda and honey.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Sharing my backyard with wildlife

I find it satisfying when area wildlife is comfortable enough to spend time in my presence, relaxing as they forage.

When I looked out my window, where three fawns parked on the grass,  I had to do a double-take.

On this day, there was one doe, with four fawns. I'm still confused as to just who parents all these deer babies. Is this the mother to all four, or are some 'adopted.' Or, are they 'cousins?' Other days, there are more does than fawns, or a doe and buck with little ones. Most times, there is just one doe and one fawn. As a human, I can't help but project my own understanding of family life onto these critters, though I'm sure it isn't even close. If I had some spare time, I would read about their behavior.

While I don't exactly understand them, perhaps one day, if I continue to observe them and their behavior, I will understand. But for now, this is just the best kind of entertainment.

I think fawns are just beautiful. I've taken hundreds of photos of them over the years.

I know some have been born very nearby, perhaps on our own property; much of it is wooded. I've heard that deer have their own fawns close to where they were born. That might explain the number of them.

It is impossible to tell them apart. I've tried to take note of their difference, to recognize their spots' patterns, but that hasn't seemed to work. I suspect I've seen generations of deer in the dozen years we've lived here, but there really is no proof of that. I just like to think it. In fact, I like to think they are all family members as well as a part of my own extended family. Looks like I need more time to observe their behavior. Now that is what I consider a good chore.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day

Earth Day, my favorite day of the year...

Today is Earth Day.

Mother Earth was kind enough to give presents -- a gentle rain that turned our Arkansas back yard into a rain forest. The sun is shining now. Like all females, Mother Earth is prone to changing her mind. As I look out the window into the woods, droplets of rain on the still new leaves sparkle as the warm sun caresses them. The landscape shimmers as if dressed in sequins. Thank you Mother Earth. The effect is spectacular.

More than thirty years ago, I experienced a kind of environmental awakening that has forever changed how I see and think about things. This new kind of spirituality inspires deeper thought, a kind of peripheral vision that takes in new dimensions, and a sense of connection to all living things.
John Muir, American conservationist.
American conservationist, my hero, John Muir 
photo credit: Wikipedia
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe," said John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, who was born on this day.

That quote has been my favorite since I first heard it. Connections are not always clear. Sometimes they are difficult to discern, but we must not be blinded by the obvious.

On that day so long ago, I walked with a group of other nature lovers along a trail. It was a time when "Save the Earth" was a popular slogan. I was disturbed about oil spills, killing dolphins in tuna nets, too much plastic that never degrades, landfills overflowing with trash that could have been recycled into useful products, and the very future of the only planet we can call home. But as I walked the trail, in the forest remnant that had been largely untouched since it was carved out by glaciers hundreds of thousands of years ago, I realized that humans aren't able to save the earth any more than they can affect it. Mother Earth will save herself, even if it is at our expense. I fear for humans who totally miss the point. The only thing that man's work will destroy is man.

I'm saddened that little has been accomplished in the past 30 years. And I am frustrated -- no angry -- at recent political attempts to reverse protections of the environment.

Even though I'm unhappy that there must be legal efforts to thwart man's destructive behavior against himself, it is too important not to be supportive since not everybody gets it. My hope for the environmental future of mankind is that more people simply realize the connections all around us. Man is not the center of the universe. He is just another piece of it.

...reprinted from 2010 but still relevant today

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year's Resolution #1

Tolerate Mr. Squirrel
I didn’t think I would make any New Year’s Resolutions this year. I rarely ever do. And, this isn’t exactly a resolution anyway. But it is only the second day of a new year and I am making a small change in my thinking with this recent proclamation, so I why not call it a resolution?

The fact is that winter in the Ozarks isn’t supposed to be this cold. Temps have been below freezing for some time. I’m retired, so I really don’t have to venture outside if I don’t want to, or need to—to run errands, attend previously set appointments, or fill the bird feeders.

I seem to be doing the latter quite often during these cold days. It is pretty frustrating to have to reach almost to the floor of the garage just to scoop up a coffee can full of sunflower seed. After all, I buy seed in huge 40 lb. bags.

Running out of bird food would definitely qualify for having to leave the warmth and comfort of the house. But feeding my feathered friends is very important to me.

There is no wonder why the food goes so fast. One look out the window makes it quite clear—Mr. Squirrel.

I have not been happy with squirrels at the bird feeder for a few years now. They have proven to be quite gluttonous, stopping at nothing to feast on the food I put out for the birds.

This year though, I’ve noticed they haven’t been as destructive as in the past. Or perhaps I’m just becoming tolerant in my old age. Then again, perhaps it is a little of both. I’ve watched Mr. Squirrel for a while. This generation seems to be a little more civilized, only taking one seed at a time, scurrying off and coming back for more. He is a little more careful in his approach as well, which means the seed doesn’t scatter all over the place, the branches of the nearby Magnolia haven’t been decimated, and he isn’t just bullying the birds. There seems to be some sharing among them. So, as long as he and his friends behave, we won’t have a quarrel.

Mr. Squirrel
Suffice it to say, my resolution is qualified. I will try to get along with all the feathered and furry critters that come to visit as long as they get along too. Perhaps 2018 will be a peaceful year. We can only hope.