Strong Women and Whiskey

not for the delicate palate

My Photo
Location: Oxford, Pennsylvania, United States

I've found that if you speak as if with authority on nearly any topic, most people will believe you. This frightens me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Smoked Salmon; a Rondeau

Let me explain this first: I have a passion for smoked salmon. It doesn't have to be gourmet, it doesn't have to be uber-fresh or organic. I just love it. Unfortunately, it's often very expensive - so in my supermarket journeys, I often linger over the slim packages, and then move on to something more substantial or economical. A recent trip to COSTCO however, allowed me to not only feed my craving, but I think that perhaps I'm tired of it. We aquired an enormous package of fairly decent smoked salmon.

Within a few days I find myself slicing lemons, chopping hardboiled eggs, rinsing capers, and making some lovely cucumber ribbons as well as a mayo based and a cream cheese based spread. My husband, brother, and I enjoyed our light dinner, and I thought it was quite attractive as well.....

The question though, is what to do with the remaining portion that would not get eaten that night? Never, had I ever thought there would be anyway I'd have, (gasp) leftover smoked salmon. I knew there'd be no way to get by on another platter, we had fewer of the ingredients around, and frankly wanted something hot for dinner. I had made chicken a la king for a client that day for dinner, using oysters instead of chicken... the cream sauce turned out nice and lemony. So with that for inspiration, I went about making, well, I have no idea what, but it was tasty and I managed to incorporate nearly every element from the platter.

The onion was sauted in some butter which I then transformed into a cream sauce with the aid of some milk, lemon, an egg yolk, butter, and dill. After that was all thick and simmery, I added the chopped salmon and capers, mixing gently until warm. Served the whole mess with toasted bagel slices (diagonals). It had a lovely smooth texture, punctuated by the capers and firm onion. The healthy dose of lemon cut into the smoke flavour of the salmon and kept if from going bland while the dill blended in well and was not obstrusive.

Now I have a good excuse to get more.... later, much later.

And now I'll leave you with this shot, again from the bathroom window (seriously, I do not spent that much time in the bathroom, it's just got a great view). Check out where the shadows end and the snow begins...

Friday, February 24, 2006


In an effort to not post pics of the new stuff, I'll post some random images for perusal. :)

This is a new project of mine -- an old kitchen cupboard purchased out of the basement of one of the coolest vintage stores I've found yet. The owner was going to refinish it herself, but found I like to refinish old stuff and so we bought this "as is". I think I'll do it in slate and green milk paint. Oh, and we got a trunk and a hutch, too. I'll be up to my elbows in sandpaper in a few weeks!
This is the main area of the existing kitchen. I have a slight spice problem, I think. I love the apothecary-style spice bottles.
My very cute husband in Hawaii.
Massive ice fangs hanging outside the bathroom window. I took a real risk sticking my head out to photograph them.

Shhhh. Collette is hiding. We can't see her. Where IS that kitty? ;)

Things with teeth

... something got another of our chickens, poor thing. I'm not as distraught about this though, because I followed the feathers until there were no more... whatever got her was obviously very hungry. I can deal with that much better than the senseless slaughter of chickens my some neighbors stupid dog. We'll need to get one soon, though, if we want to keep our chickens!

In lighter news, the floors are done being refinished, the difference is absolutely amazing. I love the company that did the job, we have 130 year old pine floors and they made them look wonderful. We're going to slowly start putting together the downstairs this weekend.

Also, the kitchen has been delayed a bit, as the countertops are going to take an extra week to come in. This is making me crazy since I've been working very hard to not post any pics of the progress, I don't want to until it's done. Grrrr. Oh, and the delay is going to mean that the kitchen will not be done until after I start classes, so odds are, Doug is going to be the first person to cook in it *sniff* *sniff*. Hopefully he'll wait for me.

I talked to Mike for a longish time the other day and am working on putting together a care package for him. Part of it included cigarettes, so I stopped into the tobacco store to get some. I'd forgotten how expensive it is to be a regular smoker! It's been almost a year since I quit, which is hard to believe. In that time I can't honestly say I've not smoked at all. I will still smoke the occasional clove cigarette, but because I like the flavour and I can't chainsmoke them or I'll get ill. So it's more like a cigar or something of that ilk.

For someone who if down to their last $5 would buy a pack of cigarettes rather than a meal, I think this is pretty good progress. Now if only I can cut back on the caffeine. (she says as she guzzles the last syrupy dregs of a Full Throttle Engergy Drink)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Gratis E2, for the original E. Please keep her and her family in your positive thoughts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Listening to Genesis by VNV Nation and I miss Mike so much I could weep. It's a rare thing to have a friend that inflitrates your soul. We needed each other at the same time. We needed not only the same path, but the shade of each other to get down it.

Somewhere we branched a bit. But that core remained -- I lose certainty as time passes.

We drove nowhere at 2 a.m. and again at 4 a.m. and some days I was miserable at work for lack of sleep. But coffee and long drives cured it all - and music, coffee and long drives and music - and talk, coffee and long drives, and music, and talk - and falling asleep listening to him play piano, and silence, and cigarettes, and silliness - and the rare balm of early spring - watching the sun come up over the hills in some town -we weren't really sure where - creeping through the fog at 2 a.m. and having not seen a headlight for an hour - and the garish, gorgeous, sinister sparkle of Motiva in the bitter winter.

Mike had a knack for orchestrating every drive perfectly, juggling his coffee, cigarette, the steering wheel, and CDs. How often, really, can you make your life have a sountrack? And he's away taking steps to big things. I haven't heard from him in ages. I know he feels our lives are so far apart - me in married grownup land, and he struggling for stability. I suppose we'll catch up eventually, I have at least a 5 year head start.

Loving Mike helped me to at least like myself - I liked me reflected off him, and I think he felt the same. It's a rare love between two genders that remains absolutely platonic - some kind of balm to a raw heart. And right now, with the air still cold but warming slightly - with this mood - with this music - I'd love to break out of here and drive with Mike.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Three ring circus

Last night we got the callback from the flooring folks around 8 p.m. confirming that they would be here today. Good news.

Except for that whole "have to move the entire downstairs into the upstairs or out", thing. So basically we moved. Fortunately D and I have done a lot of moving and are pretty good at it. The downstairs is nekkid now and every doorway, heater vent, and return is covered in plastic sheeting. Oh and the animals are quarantined upstairs. We'll put them in the attic when they start working with the stains and stuff. Oh and did I mention that there's probably lead paint on the floors? Uh huh, special.

We still have the siding guys here. They have a box truck and about three personal vehicles in the yard/driveway. The house vibrates from the impact of hammers and occasionally there is a strange face in the window. It's really starting to feel like that movie "The Money Pit" here, what with various contractors all over.

The kitchen is still in process, Mark is the main guy working on it. He comes walks in the door in the morning, yells "Good Morning!" up the stairs and starts work around 8 a.m. It'll be weird when he doesn't do that, it's been at least three weeks (non consecutive). Today also, the appliances are being delivered, which means that I've been making sure the vehicles are juggled in our muddysnowyicy driveway so that everyone can get in. The countertop scribe guys just got here, and the electrician just got here and is doing his thing.

Wow. This'll be fun. Send in the clowns!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On Romance

I think romance is what you make of it. Doug's and my first dinner ever was frozen pizza and tossed salad (to be exact, Rose's frozen pizza, Fresh Express Iceburg salad with carrot slivers, and Lite Done Right Ranch dressing... this memory of mine is scary, huh?) He prepared it for this strange, brazen redhead that had driven 6 hours to meet him.

So we had thought about reservations at The Melting Pot, or some kind of dinner out, but with all the money flying out of our accounts right now, on the house and renovations, I suggested a night in. We even had a romantic little foray into a very deserted Home Depot for ceiling medallions (and I got a WAY cool new cutting board, it's HUGE).

...and I made a little something sweet, too. Strawberry Rhubarb pie. Doug loves rhubarb. I got these strawberries and rhubarb and an Amish stand last summer. They smelled so wonderful that I got surplus, chopped them up and froze them with the intent of making my honey a pie sometime in the winter when a little burst of summer would be welcome. Of course, we were too tired to eat it last night, but I tasted the filling during preparation so I think it'll be good.

In other husband news, Doug has been particularly amused lately by the fact that our digital camera lives in the kitchen. I'll get dinner on the table and if it looks particularly good, I have to do the photo shoot before anyone can eat. So he's decided to photo journal his food preparation responsibilities. Honestly, probably the most import meal of the day.... feeding the kitties.

I think the kibbles look particularly savoury this day.....

And he makes a mean Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, lemme tell ya.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Your Candy Heart Says "Hug Me"
A total sweetheart, you always have a lot of love to give out.Your heart is open to where ever love takes you!
Your ideal Valentine's Day date: a surprise romantic evening that you've planned out
Your flirting style: lots of listening and talking
What turns you off: fighting and conflict
Why you're hot: you're fearless about falling in love

Monday, February 13, 2006



Caterpillar, I envied your chrysalis
which rainbow-pulsed
wings against membrane.

It wasn't my tragedy.
Frantic phone calls and airfares;
reservations kept. We forced smiles,
guzzled raspberry champagne
and Bio-sphered our world
into pots of coque au vin and Emmenthaler.

It wasn't my tragedy; a new diamond sparkled on my left hand.

Job description of a pillar:
Warm or cool against tear streaked faces as needed,
empathetic, &, strong in appearance.
Mastery of the sad smile
and ability to compartmentalize grief a plus.

It wasn't my heartbreak.

I didn't fight morbid reflection upon
his lips on her cold, rubbery death,
or the turgid burble of air forced into liquid.
I didn't weep at the tiny coffin, for a father's bloody blue eyes.

The New England soil too frozen to accept you,
I wasn’t relieved you’d not be blanketed in ice.
I didn't ponder your youth in a butterfly garden
or slip out to the frigid sluice of winter for respite.

Pillars do no such things.

But, when a new-mother friend disappeared that summer
for and hour, a year, a moment--
I ran from room to room, outside
from acre to acre and screamed and screamed
to keep out the coffins, the mothers dangling,
the dead babies -
and wept when she returned.

Caterpillar, you weren't my tragedy;
but your ashes butterfly my Buddleia
and I will keep you,
keep you safe as I can, now.

Caterpillar, I envied your chrysalis
which rainbow pulsed
wings against membrane.

It wasn't my tradgedy.
Frantic phone calls and airfares,
reservations kept. We forced smiles
and guzzled raspberry champagne-
Bio-sphered our world into
pots of coque au vin and melted cheese.
It wasn't my tragedy, a new diamond sparkled on my left hand.

Job description of a pillar:
warm or cool against tear streaked faces as needed,
tall, strong, good at handling the excelerated
intimacy that occurs with death a plus.

It wasn't my heartbreak, I didn't fight
of his lips on her cold rubbery death.
I didn't wince at the imagined burble of air forced into liquid.
I didn't weep at the tiny coffin, for a father's bloody blue eyes.
I didn't shelter a bird-girl in my arms,
three pews from accusation.
There are pillars for such things.

The New England soil too frozen to accept you,
I didn't ponder your youth in a butterfly garden or
smoke heavily in the sluice of winter to warm my lungs.

When a new-mother friend disappeard that summer
for and hour, a year, a moment
I didn't run from room to room, outside
from acre to acre and scream and scream
to keep out the coffins, the mothers dangling,
the dead babies -
and weep when she returned.

Caterpillar, you weren't my tradgedy;
but your ashes butterfly my Buddleia
and I will keep you,
keep you safe as I can, now.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Healthy Eating 101 ;)

Where I grew up in Maryland was right on the cusp of the famous North/South division. Folks around there were really able to pick and choose their stance on things. Basically, and this is a point of some debate, which I'm not going to open, it seems there was a sense of Northern politics and Southern culture - even now.

I was raised with Southern manners, Southern and Foothill cooking, Southern language and the open mind our Yankee neighbors were so proud of. 'Course this could be more my family's doing than my region, but I know a number of folks like me. I think, though, that this culture is more embodied in food than anything else. My husband, prior to moving here had never even really had sweet tea, poor soul, and I recall scrapple being a matter of novelty when I mentioned it at one of his friend's parties up north.

Anyway, I didn't mean to go on a tear about that, it was more to preface my day of snowbound cooking. See Southerners (and yes this is a cliche) do hold by a number of belief's with their food. One is that just about anything can be improved with the addition of pork, and another is that just about any food item, especially a vegetable, can be improved with a deep-frying method of preparation.

Witness exhibit 1-
Country gravy as improved by the addition of browned crumbled breakfast sausage (a.k.a. Sausage Gravy) Served over homemade biscuits and a trusty glass of orange juice on the side. This is one of the things I make best, however I make it rarely due to it's arterial demands. Boy it's good. It's also one of the recipes I just can't share. Not that there's anything secretive about it, only that every addition and time are basically "Until it looks right". I can show someone how to make it, but telling 'em is no good.

Exhibit 2: a late night snack -
pickled cucumbers as improved by deep frying. Also known as deep fried dill pickles. This is commonly served with deep fried catfish and hush puppies. Mmm, hush puppies. Anyway, that's way more popular a little deeper south and towards Texas a bit. I was actually inspired to make these on their own and serve them with ranch dressing dip. That particular version is reminiscent of the Maryland Renaissance Festival.

I've been hankering for a good RenFair since the wedding. I had pickles like these last year, and these are just as good. Now if only I can re-create the Turkey (emu) Legs, chocolate covered frozen cheesecake on a stick, and Scotch Eggs, I'll be good.

In fact, for another health food weekend, I may try to make Scotch Eggs. Hopefully my arteries will hold up.....maybe that experiment can wait a few weeks.

Angel Food

I've been digging through some cookbooks I have hoarded. I have this thing for old cookbooks. Well, for new ones too, but old ones because our culture is so defined by the food we prepare. I especially love those regional, church, work, or group-type cookbooks where everyone submits some recipes. I have a really great one of those put out by DuPont some years ago and it's loaded with recipes based in many ethnicities since DuPont is so big.

I also have a really interesting cookbook on Japanese cooking from 1954, one on cooking meals for two from 1975, and The Mike Douglas Cookbook from 1969 which features favorite recipes from folks like Richard M. Nixon and Zsa Zsa Gabor. My current favorite, however, is two-book set called Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, published in 1959. It's absolutely loaded with everything a homemaker at the time would ever need to know about feeding her family - including budgeting, food waste per unit, menus, and my personal favorite how-to chapter - "How to Do Those Little Puzzling Kitchen Jobs" - you know things like 'butter elaboration', 'parboiling', and 'How to Grind Horseradish Without Tormenting the Eyes' (hint: it involves dampening cheesecloth and making like a bank robber in an old Western flick).

Anyway, I'm enjoying this set, and peruse it when I get the chance. There are definately some things in here I may never make, ever - say, Creamed Tuna on Toast Points. But the baking sections are great because Meta Given is out to make this pretty comprehensive. The Why's AND the How's if you will. I've never made Angel Food Cake before so I figured I'd give her recipe a go - especially after comparing it to some others I had on hand which did not elaborate exactly what shape the egg whites were supposed to be in when they were ready.

So, snowed in and hankering to bake, I gave it a shot. I refused to use an electric mixer, for which I'm glad, but sadly, I did not use a correct pan. See, I have this wonderful rose-shaped tube pan from Nordicware, that I figured would be lovely. Really, what it ended up being was my husband and I crowded around the cake pan scooping out perfect, moist, crumblychewycrusted, steaming handfuls of cake and stuffing them into our mouths because it simply would not evacuate the pan, and I knew this, so I gave up even waiting for it to cool.

I even pounced on my brother, who was asleep in his room, woke him up, stuffed a wad of warm cake in his hand and told him to eat it and go back to sleep. I poked my head in the door a bit ago and he was smiling and had crumbs all over his face. Just so you all know, he would have gotten up in an hour and gone digging for a midnight snack, anyway.

So the results as you can see were rather ugly but the cake itself was amazing. I used Softasilk cake flour and the whites of 11 organic eggs.

An excerpt from the text: "Now hold bowl slightly tipped, turn it slowly and beat with a flat wire whip until whites are stiff enough to hold pointed, glossy peaks. Now set bowl flat on table, and add remaining sugar in 6 portions, sifting it over whites, beating about 20 strokes after each portion. Then beat in flavorings with 10 more strokes. Add flour-sugar mixture in 5 portions sifting each portion over whites, and turning bowl slowly, fold in gently but thoroughly with wire whip using 20 complete fold-over strokes after the first 4 portions, then use 40 strokes to blend in the last portion."

Not much room for error, eh? Yes, I actually counted my strokes. Next time I'll use a proper pan. I think I'm going to go stuff another fistfull of cake in my face and refill my coffee.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Today's Horoscope

from MSN:

"You have always felt the need to create, dear Taurus. The simplest tasks can fulfill this need. You are even happy if you draw on a small piece of paper! Over the last thirty days, you have been finishing off a project close to your heart. Don't be afraid to show it off to your entourage. People will be thrilled by your work, and you deserve to feel proud of what you have achieved."

Today marks the first day that I don't have to get all sloppy and messy and grimey doing work on the kitchen. We put the last coat of paint on the pantry last night. The cabinets are being set up as we speak. Within a week, we'll have appliances and all kinds of goodies.

Hurrah! I guess I may have to post some pics soon, eh?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Erin, my "frind", have at this one. How many bad grammar, syntax, and spelling problems can you find? :)

You Are From Venus

You love all forms of beauty. You love dressing up and anything luxurious.
A social butterfly, you're incredibly popular and a great host.
You're known for your fairness and affection. And as a frind to all.
Careful though! You're desire to please may make you too willing to conform.
Be yourself. Focus on what matters to you. You'll be all the more popular for it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

more progress

I couldn't type more than a few lines for a few days. 1) because we were verra busy and 2) because the tendons and muscles in my wrists and forearmes were painfully swollen. Apparently doing about 300 square feet of grout will do that to you. I gave up the "hands and knees" approach when I realized I was simply putting too much weight on my support arm. After that point, I started doing wider rows of two tiles and skootched along on my butt.

I had pain in placed I didn't know I had things to hurt. My hands were so bad on Saturday that I was relieved of hammering detail while doing the trim work. The vibrations from the impact were too much. This is quite scary to someone who intends to make a living off their hands. But they're better now and I don't think I'll be encountering anything quite so drastic for a bit. Doug did an amazing job laying the tile out, I think my groutwork is pretty good, too. Today I'm going to clean the haze up off the tile, however we can't seal for three days, and there will be workmen here somewhere in that mess, so I think we'll put off sealing until the cabinets are in.

Oh yeah, and the cabinets are coming this week!!! Devin is nearly done the pantry drywall, in fact it may just need one more sanding, which I can do. We have the bifold door up. Anyone who hear's me pick out an unfinished louvered door and say that I'll paint it or stain it myself has a right to kick me in the head. I finished a ceiling in the time it took to paint that door.

Oh, and the siding guys are here, too. How exciting is that? They'll put on the pretty new siding, shutters, trim, wrap the window out, soffits and fascia this week. Yes, there will be pictures soon.

I can't wait for this kitchen to get done. If anyone needs to drool, here are the specs:

  • 27 square foot rectangular pantry with 8 foot to 8 3/4 foot ceiling
  • the body of the kitchen is roughly 250 square feet - 19' x 13'
  • 5 burner Dacor gas range with a simmer and a sear burner as well as griddle and grill attachments
  • no double oven, have a gas oven and built in convection microwave above it
  • granite composite countertops
  • really purty Itallian tile, rustic looking, sturdy. I dropped a hammer headfirst on it and it didn't even chip
  • lots of custom cabinets
  • a big ol' island
  • AND Doug is letting me put up a Moravian Star light fixture in the entryway!

There's a good bit more detail, but it would make more sense for me to share photos when it's done. I can't believe how much the room has changed. Even though we are outsourcing a lot, knowing that Doug and myself and some friends and family that are very generous with their time and energy have pitched in to do a lot of the work really makes it so much more wonderful.

Well, off to paint and clean some more.

Dance, magic dance....

What is it about men in makeup? I just got an awesome package in the mail from E2. I have the movie but not the soundtrack. How many times have I lusted over the soundtrack and then put it back on the shelf? Too many to count. Thank ye! I'm gonna go dance around like a complete lunatic now.