Category Archives: Food and Drink

Learning curve

Rich is off doing his annual guy bonding thing- for the 32nd year in a row the same four men have gone to Myrtle Beach for four days of golfing and catch-up. Despite time and changes in circumstance they insist on doing it just as they did in the beginning. For a number of years they stayed in the same hotel but then that one got torn down and they had to start searching for another one with the same ambiance. I can track his reunion activities by signing onto our online bank account.

Denny’s: 10.46

Tupelo Bay Golf Center: 11:43

Big Daddy’s Roadhouse: 22.91

Damon’s Oceanfront Hotel: 18.93 (his half of a 32.00/night room)

Four days of golf with your guys: Priceless


After teaching the young folk on Friday, I’m taking this time for a little continuing education of my own with girlfriends. Saturday, I spent the whole day with Cathy taking a torch-fired enamel class at the Morean Art Center. One of the perks of teaching there is that I get a class for every class I teach and I had heard rave reviews about this one. Barbara Lewis, torch fired enamel guru, teaches the class and she was marvelous.(You can find her wonderful blog, Painting with Fire, here.) Artists who teach learn quickly that the key to running a good intensive workshop is organization- having everyone’s supplies laid out and ready and having a scheduled project plan in your head helps make it successful for students. You really only feel good if, at the end of the day, people take home a completed product and a knowledge base that lights their fire. Barbara’s workshop was all of that and if you ever get a chance to take a one day workshop from her, jump on it. It was everything I hoped and more. In stark contrast to my glass blowing experience in Chicago a couple years ago, this is something I can do. You probably don’t remember but I found the combination of weight, coordination and massive glowing furnaces overwhelming. Back in that class the rest of students were college age and the instructor was a burly strong experienced glass blower who kept yelling “DON’T get that molten glass on the edge of the glory hole!!”

(I’m going to spend some time today combining some of these with felted beads and see where that goes.)

In this class,  we worked with torches and beads, heating the metal to a glowing hot red and then adding the powder enamels- essentially ground glass- and refiring it repeatedly to get the desired colors and patterns. Six hours of it was a bit exhausting, partially because of the heat factor: 12 torches firing fulltilt for 6 hours made the room overly hot. But then I had a lovely dinner with friend, Cathy, and then it was home to bed.

Yesterday it was down to Worden Farms in Punta Gorda to learn about goat ownership and cheese making. I went into it thinking I’m ready for a couple of goats and the class was especially persuasive in letting me know that I am NOT ready for that. The more she talked enthusiastically about the joys of worming, fencing, protecting your goats and potentially toxic landscaping from each other and needing to breed them (duh) to get milk production but needing to keep bucks separate from does (two fenced enclosures! It’s getting harder by the moment to hide these hoof stock from the homeowner’s association!) the more I knew that what I really need is a source of good clean fresh goat’s milk. The cheese-making portion of the day was super. In short order she demonstrated and we tasted mozzarella, paneer and my favorite, chevre. Easy, pretty straightforward and delicious, especially with a few herbs tossed in here and there. I can’t wait to start making cheese-I like to think of it as Daniel bait; he comes for fresh chevre- and there’s a farm with dairy goats a short mile walk from the house in Asheville.

Okay- back to online price comparing pop-up drain assemblies. Torch firing enamel, cheese making, plumbing parts- so much to learn and so little time. Have a great start to the week!

Food fix, as promised

squashNice weekend, with some time away from felting. I did spend yesterday rendering some of that carload of squash and pumpkins I hauled back from North Carolina into edible ingredients. I had picked out quite an assortment, gave a bunch away to friends here and used the rest for Halloween decor, minus carving. I decided if I roast 4 or 5 a weekend we’ll go through all of them, although heaven only knows what I’ll do with 50# of assorted squash/pumpkin puree in freezer bags…Send in your favorite recipes now, please. Because I had picked up some unusually attractive heirloom varieties I’m also seed saving so there are little paper towels covered with various seeds drying out around the house.

Here are two of my favorite recipes for squash soup- one with a bite and one without. And you can also use pumpkin or a mix thereof.

Roasted Hazelnut and squash soup

1 med. butternut squash (acorn squash or fresh pumpkin)
1 sm. onion, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. whole roasted hazelnuts (almonds, walnuts, or pecans. I used Georgia pecans we bought on our trip home.)
1 qt. chicken broth
1 c. whipping cream
White pepper
Fresh grated nutmeg
1 c. dairy sour cream
1/4 c. coarsely chopped roasted nuts

Halve squash lengthwise; remove seeds. Place cut side up in shallow baking dish. Bake in 400 degree oven about 1 hour or until soft. Don’t add water. Scoop out pulp; set aside. In a large saucepan, cook onion in butter until tender. Stir in squash and 1/2 cup nuts. Stir in broth. Cook over medium low heat for 30 minutes. Transfer about 1/4 of soup to blender container. Cover; blend smooth. Repeat with remaining soup. Return to saucepan. Stir in cream and season with some white pepper, nutmeg and salt. Bring just to boiling. Remove from heat. Season to taste. Ladle into bowls, topping with a dollop of sour cream and some of remaining nuts. 8 to 10 servings.thanksgiving-decor-squash-soup

And here’s one with some kick to it- yum!

Curried squash soup

2 2-pound butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeded

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped peeled apple

2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste*

2 14-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons honey

6 tablespoons sour cream, stirred to loosen

Chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush cut side of squash with oil; place squash, cut side down, on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Scoop squash out into large bowl. Measure 3 cups squash (reserve any remaining squash for another use).

Melt butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and apple; sauté 5 minutes. Add curry paste; stir 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, bay leaves, and 3 cups squash. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered 1 hour. Discard bay leaves. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return to same pot. Stir in cream and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Rewarm over medium-high heat.

Divide soup among bowls. Drizzle with sour cream; sprinkle with cilantro.


Rich played golf and one of his buddies got this phone picture of Rich discussing his next shot with this golfer gopher tortoise. I love these guys so I was a little jealous not to see him but it puts me in a mind to take out the tram next time I’m down at Boyd Hill and toodle around to the place where all the gophers nest. Maybe I’ll get some good photos.golfer turtle

We ended the weekend with another seasonal meal at our neighbor friends, Rich and Marion. They are also transplants from the north; here in Florida you’re either a native Cracker, a Snowbird or one of a large crowd that just seems to have slid downhill to the bottom of the country. (To wit, this digression: Abby overhead this conversation at the zoo here recently: “Is that a min-key?” “Nah, looks like a ‘coon.” “Lemme try and read this sign. It says it’s a Rang Tail LaMar!”) Marion is first generation so she made Polish Kapusta (sauerkraut) with shredded pork and polish sausage. It had simmered away for a whole day and then been held over for one more for the flavor to fully develop. My Rich thought he was on his way to heaven, as this dish was a childhood memory of his favorite foods. We got into a discussion about classic family dishes that were served when autumn rolled around.(We’re pretending it’s autumn here in St. Petersburg.) I remembered New England Boiled Dinner and Marion’s Rich remembered Toucan Supper, which consisted of these two items:51lU7iwZ-mL._SL500_AA280_PIbundle-6,TopRight,0,0_AA280_SH20_

4780033016Toucans. Get it? Then we all started to remember Spam with brown sugar and it was a downhill slide from there until Marion served homemade pumpkin pie. Guess where the pumpkin came from?

Finally Rich and I were sitting in bed winding down with some television and my fingers started to itch so I made this little guy. I miss the two back at Lincoln Park Zoo…
felt polar bear

Fuzzy thinking, wine and cheese

Last night I had one of those dreams that goes on and on, in great detail, and manages to encompass just about every worrisome aspect of your life, past, present and future. I’ll spare you all the details except this one: At some point I was visiting my parents to try and help them get their aging, out-of-control house in shape only to discover that Bud had hired a work crew that consisted of two college age social work students and 275 seven year old children from a home for delinquents. When I asked him why he said that the sheriff’s fund had called asking for a donation and that was what he had agreed to do.

All that by way of saying life is happily out of control around here. I spent the last year worrying that if I really decided to try and market my felted works I’d be rejected at every turn. Last week I went bravely out into the world, feeling quite sick to my stomach, and approached the best gallery and then the nicest knitting store in St. Petersburg and came home with orders for over a 125 items for holiday sales- all due by October 31. What’s that odd thing people type online for great bursts of laughter? MWAHAHAHA!

And so, the house is hopelessly awash in wool, fuzzies on and under everything and we’re all choking on hairballs.

needle holder1(Ya, they’re really nice, all hand dyed merino top, silk bombyx and lovely batik fabric linings. Seamless.)needleholder2(every knitter needs a set, don’t you think?)ornament2(the sparkle in these doesn’t photograph all that well, but they DO sparkle)

And so now the question is, what to charge? I tend to ask too little, always thinking it somehow “isn’t nice” to ask very much. The problem of course is materials, time, commission, etc. means that for a mere 483.00 per item I could earn 10.00/hr. Kidding. But you get the idea. If I price the ornaments in the 20-25.00 range which seems about right for the gallery setting it’s a certainty that I remain Rich’s chattel for a few more years. And that means, every time I ask him if he would do the litter box he still has that snappy comeback: “Sure, if you want to run these 40 pages of statistical analysis for me…” But, IT’S ALL GOOD.

Thanks for all your support around the Lincoln Park Zoo docent issue. I rarely get all up and political here but that one leaves me steaming. Really steaming. So, thanks.

On Friday I whipped out the vacuum and we took a break to have some friends over for a wine and cheese party. That was more entertaining fun than I can remember. A fine, funny and uniquely different lot, everyone got along famously. We have been getting some foods from Rosas Farm near Ocala- all organic, local, artisanal- and we’ve been very pleased. We ordered ground beef- about 5 pounds will last the month in spaghetti and burgers- and it was incredibly juicy, tender, flavorful and had very little fat content. And of course, it all came from one cow, as opposed to a thousand standing in a pen full of manure.

The cheeses were a real hit. We had six total and paired each one with exactly the right wine, champagne or Oktoberfest beer. I printed out the description and origin of each and put it next to the tray. I added a big tossed salad of microgreens, grapes, some fresh ciabatta bread, crackers (not Ritz), two sorbets and some organic dark chocolate. It was a lovely table, really simple and elegant. And fortunately, I forgot to put out the chocolate. Oops.


I am really sorry to hit and run like this but I have to make 4 felt penguins by the end of the day…I agree with Mary’s note on Facebook this morning: I expect you all to keep entertaining me with your news and photos.

Zingerman’s NY Peppered Pastrami

Audrey knows I love it and, of course the only place in the world you can get it is at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, so one of the last things she shopped for before the annual BCMA meeting at Roberta’s cottage was a pound, sliced thin. And then she forgot and left it home. Despite a flurry of phone calls, everyone in BCMA had already departed for Lake Michigan and there was no one to stop and pick it up en route- until Roberta made her second trip across the state a couple days into our stay. So she detoured, drove to Audrey’s and snatched it out of the frig and delivered it to me at the cottage in Grand Haven. We didn’t eat it that day but hell would freeze over before I left it behind, so Roberta froze a block of ice in a bag overnight and Marion and I carried it along to Chicago. Where it went into Lee’s refrigerator Sunday night while I refroze the block of ice. We didn’t eat it with Lee in Chicago because we went out for Pakistani/Indian food on the eve of Pakistani Independence Day. The next morning, I repacked it on the block of ice and Monday that pound of pastrami moved downtown to Susan And Gary’s refrigerator while new ice was frozen. We didn’t eat it that night because we were watching Dan’s concert at Millennium Park.

At that point the pastrami was 6 days from slicing but still pristine, wrapped and perfect. So Dan and I packed it up, on ice, and drove the pastrami to Oshkosh, b’gosh.

Today, we brought Bud out and away from his spot at Evergreen Rehab for a change of scenery. But it’s hard. He can’t walk all that far. He needs to be near a bathroom. He tires easily. Sometimes he’s muddled. So we’ve just brought him back to our room at the Hilton Garden Inn. I swiped a couple of extra bagels at breakfast. Went into the bar and borrowed some popcorn baskets. Borrowed a knife to slice a tomato purchased at a roadside farm stand back in Michigan. Bought two bottles of bad beer for the three of us. Had a couple of Red Haven peaches. Bud just announced that it’s the best meal he can remember having, ever. I’m not sure about Bud’s memory, but this is one of those photos that speaks a thousand words.Bud(Thanks, Audrey)