Sunday, April 30, 2017

May Cooking - Slow Cooker Chicken Stew

This is a favorite around our house. Makes about 6 serving.

Chicken Stew 

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
1 large onion, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste 
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2-3 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas
Minced fresh parsley 

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken in oil for about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. 

Add to skillet onions, garlic, tomato paste, thyme, potatoes, and carrots. Soften veggies about 6 minutes.

Add flour and stir, cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in white wine and reduce for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup broth, smoothing any lumps.  Transfer to Slow Cooker. Nestle in chicken thighs and add bay leaves. 

Cook on low 6 hours. Add peas to Slow Cooker for last hour.  Shred chicken and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. 

April Thoughts

“We might summarize our present human situation by the simple statement: that in the 20th century, the glory of the human has become the desolation of the Earth and now the desolation of the Earth is becoming the destiny of the human.

From here on, the primary judgment of all human institutions, professions, programs and activities will be determined by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually-enhancing human/Earth relationship.”
― Thomas Berry

Always Marry an April Girl by Ogden Nash

Praise the spells and bless the charms
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy;
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true--
I love April, I love you.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Around OakMeadows

The lantana in the garden is just gorgeous. 

Around OakMeadows
It has been a beautiful weekend. Cool, clear, no humidity. We didn't do anything special for Earth Day or the March for Science. But we did spend as much time outside as we could. 

We had lunch with P&W&C&B Friday at an Italian restaurant. It was without a doubt, the worst service I have ever experienced. Next month we are having BBQ here at my house.

Birds recently seen:
          Barn Swallows (babies can be seen in nest)
          Ruby-throated Hummingbird (4, I think)
          Collared Doves 
          Blue jay 
          Red-tailed hawk
          House sparrow
          Red-winged blackbirds 
          Black vulture
          Red-tailed hawk

I usually like to be busy doing things--cooking, quilting, housework, making plans, reading. I'm very good at not being bored. But occasionally, I have a pajama day or a day where I just don't get much done.  Today was one of those days. We went to a cafe called House of Pies which makes in addition to delicious pies, fabulous sandwiches. JMM always has a BLT and cottage fries and I always have the Regency Club and Cottage fries. Then we split a piece of pie and waddle out, come home, and take a nap. Such was my nonproductive day today. 

DD and I are planning a trip to Pawhuska, OK. Unless you read Pioneer Woman's blog, you are probably wondering why anyone would plan a trip to Pawhuska. We want to eat at The Merc and see what's going on. I've followed her blog for years and have a couple of her cookbooks.  She has a new cookbook coming out soon. I cried when her Bassett hound, Charlie, died.  And I've watched her 4 kids growing up. I am in awe of her energy and enthusiasm. We will meet in OKC and drive together to Pawhuska. We wanted to go in May but it looks like October. 

The circus in Washington seems to be kicking into high gear this week with the budget and the wall in the Center ring. But the ongoing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, ad infinitum, not to mention North Korea, could move to the Center ring any day. The talk about Tax Reform leaves me nervous because 1.) They will probably want to lower the Social Security Payroll Tax and call it Tax Relief without explaining that that's what funds our Social Security. 2.) I'm pretty sure that the real tax reform will favor the already mega wealthy at the expense of everyone else. Ho hum, what else is new???

Well, that's all the news from OakMeadows where the cats are shedding their winter coats all over everything. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

April Cooking -- Tortellini Salad with Asparagus and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 shallot, minced
1 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed, and sliced on the bias
2 (9-ounce) packages fresh cheese tortellini
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

1. Whisk the olive oil, basil, lemon oil, shallot, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in a bowl large enough to hold salad.

2. Cook the asparagus in 4 quarts boiling water seasoned with 1 tablespoon salt until tender, about 3 minutes.  Transfer the asparagus to a colander with a slotted spoon. Do not discard the boiling water.  Run cold water over the asparagus until cool. Shake out any excess water and toss with the vinaigrette.

3. Return the water to a boil, add the tortellini and cook according to package directions. Drain the tortellini thoroughly, then toss while hot the asparagus and dressing. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

4. Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Just before serving, stir in the toasted pine nuts, tomatoes, and Parmesan into the salad and season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

April Thoughts

“The destiny of humans cannot be separated from the destiny of earth.”
― Thomas Berry

Friday, April 21, 2017

April Rain Song by Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roofs at night
And I love the rain.

Goals for the Week of April 23-29, 2017

     Spiritual Reading

     Exercise DVD
     32 oz. water daily 

     Finish Scrap Quilt top

     By Its Cover by Donna Leon
     The Serengeti Rules by Sean B. Carroll 
     The Town House by Nora Lofts (After I finish By Its Cover)
     Finks by Joel Whitney (After I finish The Serengeti Rules)

     Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff 
     Baked Fish, Oven Roasted Veggies
     Schwan's Beef Pot Pies
     Spaghetti and Meatballs 
     Lemon Poppyseed Muffins 

     Begin looking into replacing carpet with hardwood

     Order summer shorts/slacks/tops

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Around OakMeadows

This is a Question Mark butterfly. It was the first one that I have ever seen. 

Around OakMeadows 

We took a weekend trip to the National Butterfly Center in Mission, TX last weekend. It is about a 5 1/2 hour drive so we always leave about 5 am.  I wanted to stop in Edinburgh on the way to go to the World Birding Center, but when we got there, it was closed for Good Friday. I was disappointed because it is a wonderful wetlands park. Next trip.  Fortunately, the Butterfly Center was open and we spent about 2 hours meandering through it.  I will post photos next week. Saturday morning we drove down to South Padre Island Nature Center and had a wonderful time meandering around there too. Then it was time to come home. 

I needed to stop at the grocery store before going home. All I can say is Do not EVER go to the grocery on Saturday afternoon before Easter.  It was packed!! We are spoiled by being able to do our shopping early or during the week and were totally put off by the crowd. Anyway, we got our groceries and finally arrived home. As always, nice to go, nice to come home. 

We went to see Beauty and the Beast. It was pretty good, sweet romance. I love Emma Watson and didn't know she could sing. 

I am so pleased with the way my Scrap Quilt top is coming along. I may be able to get it together next week. 

I'm reading two really good books. By Its Cover by Donna Leon is one of the Commissario Brunetti mysteries set in Venice. I think it is about #20 in the series and they never get old.  The other is The Serengeti Rules by Sean Carroll. It is about how Nature limits growth from the microbiological level to the ecological level. Very interesting.  

We have had more Monarchs this year than we have ever had. One day this week there were at least 20 on the property. Lots of caterpillars on the milkweed too. I counted 5 chrysalis on the back porch. Lots of Queens too mostly on the blue mist flowers.  I am so fortunate to have this beautiful property and all the beautiful creatures on it, birds and raccoons, butterflies and caterpillars and the beautiful trees.  

I had planned for 2017 to be a Year of the Salad where I learn to make one new salad each month. I did this one year for Soup and made 12 new soups and one year was the year of Muffins. It is a simple way to make sure to try new things. But this year, I just haven't been doing the salad as planned. So I bought a cookbook, Mighty Salads and next week I will pick out a salad for May. We shall see. 

Friday is our monthly lunch with P&W&C&B. We have to steer carefully around topics of religion, politics, or climate change. But if those are avoided, it is a very pleasant lunch.  

That's all the news from OakMeadows where the cats think we are their concierges and mostly we are. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

April Cooking -- Whole Wheat Muffins

Nonstick spray or paper muffin cups
1¾ cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup maple syrup
¾ cup milk (whole, low-fat, or nonfat)
1/3 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. To prepare the muffin

tins, spray the indentations and the rims around them with nonstick spray, or line the indentations with paper muffin cups. If using silicon muffin tins, spray as directed, then place them on a baking sheet.

2. Whisk the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until lightly beaten, then whisk in the honey and maple syrup until smooth, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk, oil, and vanilla. Finally, stir in the prepared flour mixture until incorporated.

4. Fill the prepared tins three-quarters full. Use additional greased tins or small, oven-safe, greased ramekins for any leftover batter, or reserve the batter for a second baking. Bake for 22 minutes, or until the muffins have rounded, cracked tops and a toothpick inserted in the center of one muffin comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

5. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Gently rock each muffin back and forth to release and remove it from the pan. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes more on the rack before serving. If storing or freezing the muffins, cool completely before sealing in an airtight container or in freezer-safe plastic bags. The muffins will stay fresh for up to 24 hours at room temperature or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Muffins: Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and ½ cup raisins with the whole wheat flour.
Whole Wheat Cranberry Walnut Muffins: Add 1/3 cup dried cranberries and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts along with the whole wheat flour.
Whole Wheat Jam Muffins: Fill the muffin tins one-third full; gently spread the batter to the rims. Add 1 teaspoon jam to each muffin, then divide the remaining batter equally among the tins, covering the jam.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April Thoughts

“The universe is the primary revelation of the divine, the primary scripture, the primary locus of divine-human communication.” 
― Thomas Berry

Friday, April 14, 2017

An April Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When the warm sun, that brings
Seed-time and harvest, has returned again,
'T is sweet to visit the still wood, where springs
The first flower of the plains.

I love the season well,
When forest glades are teaming with bright forms,
Nor dark and many-folded clouds foretell
The coming on of storms.

From the earth's loosened mould
The sapling draws its sustenance, and thrives;
Though stricken to the heart with winter's cold,
The drooping tree revives.

The softly-warbled song
Comes from the pleasant woods, and colored wings
Glance quick in the bright sun, that moves along
The forest openings.

When the bright sunset fills
The silver woods with light, the green slope throws
It's shadows in the hollows of the hills
And wide the upland glows.

And when the eve is born,
In the blue lake the sky, o'er reaching far,
Is hollowed out, and the moon dips her horn,
And twinkles many a star.

Inverted in the tide
Stand the gray rocks,and trembling shadows throw,
And the fair trees look over, side by side,
And see themselves below.

Sweet April! Many a thought
Is wedded unto thee, as hearts are wed;
Nor shall they fail, till, to its autumn brought,
Life's golden fruit is shed.

Goals for Week of April 15 - 21, 2017


     Exercise DVD
     Salad for lunch 3x

Quilting - Finish piecing Scrap Quilt top

     The Serengeti Rules by Sean B. Carroll
     By Its Cover by Donna Leon

     Slow Cooker Chicken Stew
     Tuna Salad
     Veggie Soup
     Schwan's Beef Pot Pie

     Plant Mock Verbena in butterfly garden 

     Make plans for trip to PW's Merc

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

May Poetry

The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.

Beneath the apple blossoms
I go a wintry way,
For love that smiled in April
Is false to me in May."
-  Sara Teasdale, May  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Around OakMeadows

Around OakMeadows

The grass pollen level is very high so my poor eyes are itching and I am trying my best not to constantly rub them. I've taken Claritin and ibuprofen so maybe it will get a little better.  DD came over today.  We had Chipotle for lunch and instead of watching The Great British Bake Off, we went to bed and slept for a couple of hours. JMM and I both had insomnia last night and she was exhausted from the BBQ Festival yesterday. We all felt better when we got up. 

Our horrible President struck Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles last week in response to their using sarin gas on a rebel town.  Assad has been barrel bombing rebel cities all over Syria for the past 6 years but killing people with gas is supposedly much worse than killing with bombs. So we put our right foot in and we shake it all about..... Now the Moron in Chief is sending a Navy strike force to Korea.  What could possibly go wrong.....

I finished reading Climate Change and the Health of Nations by Anthony McMichael.  It was excellent. I will have a review up later this week. I also finished In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear. It was another excellent Maisie Dobbs mystery. 

I am almost finished cutting out the pieces for my next Scrap Quilt. Speaking of quilts, I learned that the new baby is a girl.  I have a quilt and a wall hanging suitable for a baby girl. Not sure which to send.  

We are planning a quick trip to the Rio Grande Valley Friday and Saturday. I want to go to the National Butterfly Center, one of the parks, and maybe the turtle rescue center. 

That's about all here at OakMeadows where the barn swallows are nesting on the porch and the people are cleaning the bird poop off the concrete. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

April Cooking -- Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

1 tablespoon vegetable Oil
2 tomatoes, about 12 ounces, cored and chopped medium
1 onion, minces
2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
10 cilantro stems, tied together with twine
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper

4 cups crushed Tortilla chips
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 ripe avocado, pitted and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2cup minced fresh cilantro

1. Heat oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add tomatoes, onion, and half of jalapeños and cook until onion is softened and browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, 1 tablespoon chipotles, and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1 cup broth, scrapping up any browned bits; transfer to slow cooker.

2. Stir in remaining 7 cups of broth and cilantro stems. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4-6 hours on low.

3. Transfer chicken to cutting board and shred into bite-sized pieces.  Let Soup settle for about five minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon. Discard cilantro stems.

4. Stir in shredded chicken, remaining teaspoon chipotle and remaining jalapeño and let sit for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place crushed chips in the bottom of serving bowls, ladle soup over too, and serve with cheese, avocado, sour cream, and   cilantro

Saturday, April 8, 2017

April Thoughts

“[O]ur human economy is derivative from the Earth economy. To glory in a rising Gross Domestic Product with an irreversibly declining Earth Product is an economic absurdity.” 
― Thomas BerryThe Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era--A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos

Goals for the Week April 30 - May 5, 2017

     Spiritual Reading 

     Exercise DVD
     2+ Fruits per day

Quilting - Finish Quilt top

     The Town House by Nora Lofts
     The Serengeti Rules by Sean Carroll
     I Contain Multitudes by Ex Yong
     Brit-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman 

     Pancakes and Canadian Bacon 
     Baked Fish, Carrots/Thyme, Corn
     Chicken-Rice Bake
     Cutlets, GMP, GB
     Chocolate Chip Cookies 

     The Never-Ending Garage Project
     Homeowners Association Annual Meeting 

     McGovern Centennial Gardens 
     Resistance Calls & Emails

It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear

It was an April morning: fresh and clear
The Rivulet, delighting in its strength,
Ran with a young man's speed; and yet the voice
Of waters which the winter had supplied
Was softened down into a vernal tone.
The spirit of enjoyment and desire,
And hopes and wishes, from all living things
Went circling, like a multitude of sounds.
The budding groves seemed eager to urge on 

The steps of June; as if their various hues
Were only hindrances that stood between
Them and their object: but, meanwhile, prevailed
Such an entire contentment in the air
That every naked ash, and tardy tree
Yet leafless, showed as if the countenance
With which it looked on this delightful day
Were native to the summer.--Up the brook
I roamed in the confusion of my heart,
Alive to all things and forgetting all.
At length I to a sudden turning came
In this continuous glen, where down a rock
The Stream, so ardent in its course before,
Sent forth such sallies of glad sound, that all
Which I till then had heard, appeared the voice
Of common pleasure: beast and bird, the lamb,
The shepherd's dog, the linnet and the thrush
Vied with this waterfall, and made a song,
Which, while I listened, seemed like the wild growth
Or like some natural produce of the air,
That could not cease to be. Green leaves were here;
But 'twas the foliage of the rocks--the birch,
The yew, the holly, and the bright green thorn,
With hanging islands of resplendent furze:
And, on a summit, distant a short space, 

By any who should look beyond the dell,
A single mountain-cottage might be seen.
I gazed and gazed, and to myself I said,
'Our thoughts at least are ours; and this wild nook,
My EMMA, I will dedicate to thee.'
----Soon did the spot become my other home,
My dwelling, and my out-of-doors abode.
And, of the Shepherds who have seen me there,
To whom I sometimes in our idle talk
Have told this fancy, two or three, perhaps,
Years after we are gone and in our graves,
When they have cause to speak of this wild place,
May call it by the name of EMMA'S DELL. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

April Goals

     Spiritual Reading

     Exercise DVD
     Healthy Breakfast 

Quilting - Finish cutting out Scrap Quilt and begin piecing

     Climate Change and the Health of Nations by Anthony McMichael 
     In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear
     By Its Cover by Donna Leon (If I finish In This Grave Hour.)
     Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (If I finish Climate Change.)

     Macaroni and Cheese 
     Pancakes and Canadian Bacon
     Tuna Salad
     Schwan's Chicken Pot Pie 
     Veggie Soup

     Clean off front porch and plant flowers in planters

     Houston BBQ Festival 
     Friday/Saturday trip to National Butterfly Center

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

Around OakMeadows

The top is my latest Quilt and the bottom is a baby girl wall hanging. 
(I have a great niece or nephew on the way so if it is a girl, the wall hanging will be for her and if it is a boy, I have a baby boy quilt already.)

Around OakMeadows 

The oak pollen this year is the worst I have ever seen it. It has covered our patio and table under the trees and most of the garden pathways. JMM has been taking a daily non sedating antihistamine because he is outside so much. I have been running the air conditioner fan just to keep it out of the house. I wonder if this portends a bumper crop of acorns? I guess we will have to wait and see. 

The milkweed that was frozen back over the winter is coming back very nicely. In fact it is coming back so nicely that it is being eaten back by the Monarch caterpillars. JMM counted 12 Monarch caterpillars the other day and it is apparent where they have eaten the milkweed leaves down to the stalk. Other butterflies in the garden have been a couple of Queens, Cloudless Sulphurs, a Little Sulphur, and a couple of unknown skippers.  We are planning a trip down to the Rio Grande Valley in two weeks to the Butterfly Center and to do some birding. I want to go before it gets too hot. 

I am reading Climate Change and the Health of Nations by Anthony McMichael. It is excellent. It is very informative about both the natural causes of climate change and  those caused by humanity.  It is interesting to read how climate change has historically impacted the health of civilizations by affecting crop yields, nutritional status, and resistance to disease.  (Today's drought in Syria leading to crop and pasture failure causing migration to the cities, social calamity, and mass movement of people out of the area is a story as old as humanity.) Anyway, it is excellent. 

A second excellent book that I am reading is the latest Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, In This Grave Hour. This is the 13th in the series and all have been very good. 

My Sampler Quilt is being machine quilted for me. JMM is going to take my trusty 50 year old Singer sewing machine in to be cleaned and the tension adjusted next week. (They sure don't make them like mine any more!) So while my machine is out being serviced, I am going through my fabric stash and getting the fabric cut for my next Scrap Quilt.  I have a pattern in mind and hope I can make it work. 

I am still sending my emails and making my phone calls as my bit for the Resistance. I don't know if it is doing any good but my Congressman and Senators know they have at least one disgruntled constituent.  I am 69 years old and have been voting since 1970 and I have never, ever done anything like this before. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

April Menu

1. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven fries
2. Slow Cooker Chicken
3. Baked Fish, Carrots/Thyme, Cabbage
4. Chicken-Rice Bake
5. Steak, GMP, GB
6. Leftovers
7. Out
8. Macaroni and Cheese, Corn
9. Pancakes and Canadian Bacon
10. Shrimp Jambalaya
11. Chicken tenders, Oven Roasted Veggies
12. Meatloaf, Sweet Potatoes, GB
13. Leftovers
14. Out
15. Scrambled Eggs, Canadian Bacon, Toast
16. Slow Cooker Beef
17. Tuna Salad
18. Schwan's Chicken Pot Pies
19. Pizza
20. Leftovers
21. Out

22. CB Hash, CSC
23. Potato Soup
24. Seafood Pasta
25. Schwan's Chicken Lo Mein
26. Spaghetti and Meatballs
27. Leftovers
28. Out
29. ChickenTacos
30. Stuffed Wieners, Corn

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Thoughts

“Even greater shifts will be needed if we are to finally understand that we cannot continue to live on this planet as if it is nothing more than a collection of resources for us to exploit. A greater shift will be needed if we are to realize that no one religious tradition can lay claim to absolute “truth” and we must instead learn from each other in a mutually enhancing quest for conscious contact with the Sacred.” 
― Albert J. LaChanceThe Third Covenant: The Transmission of Consciousness in the Work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, and Albert J. LaChance

April by Sara Teasdale

The roofs are shining from the rain.
The sparrows tritter as they fly,
And with a windy April grace,
The little clouds go by.

Yet the back yards are bare and brown
With only one unchanging tree--
I could not be so sure of Spring
Save that it sings in me.