Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Pig in the Fridge

As we all know, there is a chicken in the kitchen. She was joined this morning by what has to amount to a whole pig in our fridge. Big Daddy has once again been requested to cook the Epiphany dinner for our church. You see, in reality, North Carolinians know very little about barbeque. It is secretly the transplants to this region who have those mad smokin' skills. Monday, B.D. and a friend who also is originally from Missouri will smoke all those pork butts and turn them into something awesomely good for the end of the week feast. I don't think that barbecue is a traditional Episcopalian Holy Day food, but it keeps the people happy.

In a little while we are heading down to Transylvania County to our friend's summer camp for an evening of festivities to welcome in the New Year. Our friends bought a summer camp. I am extremely jealous. Imagine having your own camp! I spent a lot of summers at camp and spent most of my college years living in a tent or cabin and riding horses for very little pay. What fun. Anyway, I'll be back tomorrow with tales of the evening and maybe a few resolutions. Happy New Year to everyone!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chicken in the Kitchen

Try to say the above title five times fast. You'll sound like a choo choo train.

"Let me out, dammit, before I hurt someone..."

Per laura's request here's the chicken update. Little Hen (I am trying to resist naming her due to the utter despair I felt after the dog attack on all my little hens earlier this year) is doing well. I gave her a bath this morning and lathered her up with Preparation H. It seems to be working.

Big Daddy doesn't have the heart to kick her out to the studio, so she's living in a dog crate in the kitchen. Yesterday she shredded all the newspaper I put down in the crate in a vain attempt to make a nest to lay her egg. Today I made her a nice cozy nest out of a box filled with fresh straw. I think it meets her approval, but there was no egg today. No egg is a good thing as we want to give that whole region of her body a rest. I spoiled her with blackberries from the freezer, slices of cucumber and the frilly tops of celery stalks. I figure the softer foods will be gentler on her as well. She may start to like it so well inside that she'll be hanging out on the porch begging to get in when she goes back to the rest of the flock. I'll turn into one of those nutty women that let their chickens sit on the couch, eat bon bons and watch television (They do exist, you know...). Help me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I Swear, I'm Moving to Canada

The government is pissing me off.

Well, I like Canada - it's a little cold though. Maybe Australia?

Do you think they'll spy on my activities now because I said that?

Call Me Doctor Doolittle

Yesterday afternoon as I was herding the uppity chickens back into the coop I noticed something was wrong. One of my Dominique hens had a big old mass of ick* hanging out of her backside. Now for those of you who don't know about chicken physiology please understand that a chicken has just one orifice for the all bodily functions. One little hole called the vent is where chicken poop and eggs come out (I hope I haven't put you off of the incredible, edible egg forever...). Oh, and in case you're wondering, chickens don't pee. Sorry, I'm getting away from the story.

My little hen had a prolapsed vent. That is, her insides were on her outside and need to go back where they belonged. Action was needed. So I brought her inside. But, before I brought her inside, I needed a place to keep her. I had to carry her around as I looked for the cat carrier. I couldn't find the cat carrier in the garage or the shed, so I had to settle for a dog crate. All of this searching was going on while the little hen was carried around like a football under my arm. (I know, I should have found the cat carrier first and then brought her inside, but my brain was in crisis mode.) After setting up the crate here is what I had to do according to my research.

I gave her a bath of warm water and in the sink. I cleaned out the vent (very nasty job, that was...) wearing gloves, of course. I manipulated the prolapsed vent (ehwww....), gave her a good lube up with some bag balm and then plopped her down in the dog crate in the kitchen. I gave her some water and a little feed, covered the crate, and left her alone.

This morning things seem to be, eh hem, going back to their proper places. I've been advised to give her some electrolytes, cut back her feed, and keep her isolated in a warm, dark place for a few days. I'll probably move her to my studio today. It's cooler than the house, but warmer than the coop and she can rest and recover. And, I don't think the kitchen is the proper place for a chicken. I've also been advised to apply some hemorrhoid cream to the area to reduce swelling. I'll probably head out to the drug store later to pick some up as it's not something we have had any need for. Also, I plan to talk to the other hens and tell them this sort of behavior is not acceptable and to please keep their insides to themselves from now on.

*I don't believe this is a technical veterinary term, but if I were one, I'd use it quite frequently.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Ah, the joys of post-holiday relaxation... Things are getting slowly back to normal. Big Daddy went back to work this morning. The Monkey, unfortunately, seems to have picked up a little stomach bug somewhere. She's convalescing on the sofa - watching cartoons, nibbling on saltines and sipping some peppermint tea with honey.

Everyone received something that they truly wanted. All our gifts to friends and family arrived at their destinations on time and seem to be appreciated. But what was really wonderful was that we spent a quiet day together as a family with no obligations to the outside world.

I spent a small part of Christmas day loading songs on to my new iPod. I feel a little like I did when I got my first Sony Walkman in high school. (Yes, they came out when I was in high school. I'm old...) I reminisced and ended up downloading songs that I only had on albums or cassettes. I told you I was old. Then I moved on to other tunes. I went on a five mile walk yesterday morning, bundled up against the snow and wind. The iPod was a welcome change to my routine. Also, with all this "new" music I can now respond to the meme that Jamie tossed my way.

So here it goes...

7 Songs I'm Into Now (in no particular order)

1. Soul Meets Body - Death Cab for Cutie
2. Bed Bugs and Ballyhoo - Echo and the Bunnymen
3. Essence - Lucinda Williams
4. Girlfriend - Matthew Sweet
5. Wake Me Up When September Comes - Green Day
6. Do You Realize - Flaming Lips
7. Michael Rockefeller - Guadalcanal Diary

I won't tag anyone in particular, but you can tell me your current favorites. I still have lots of iTunes gift cards to spend, so if you have any suggestions, let me know. I do live in any area with very little radio reception (not that I've ever been that influenced by radio play) and what stations I do get tend to be top 40, oldies rock, and blue grass.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Stick A Fork In Me, I'm Done...

Monkey and I went on our last Christmas shopping expedition. We visited Complements To The Chef, a local cooks haven, and found Big Daddy an 8-inch Chef's Knife. With the help of my friend, Doug (who I had know idea worked there), I selected the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Cuisine . It had a very hefty feel and I think he'll like it. As that was being gift wrapped Monkey picked up a little Peugeot pepper mill and announced that she was getting it for Daddy. She knows her daddy well, and I think he'll be pleased. The biggest excitement of the day was when I found the Maldon Sea Salt. I've been searching for it since I ran out of my stash over a year ago. There it was on the shelf next to the cash register. How had I missed it before??? Christmas is complete.

Monkey and I then ventured in to downtown Asheville. I picked up a bar of chai tea soap for Big Daddy's stocking. I'm not saying he needs soap, he just likes that particular one. In our family stockings tend to be for little practical things that really don't call for wrapping. I remember getting new socks, a toothbrush, and sometimes even underwear each year. Now that I think about it, it's odd that Santa would get me underwear... Anyway, we had a nice lunch and then headed for our last stop - Target. I would not recommend a store like Target on a day like today to anyone, but I needed more wrapping paper and I wanted all our presents to match, or at least coordinate... The drive there past all the other big "box" stores was rather hellish, but the actual shopping in the store wasn't so bad. As I paid for my purchases I sighed. Shopping for Christmas was done. I think...

Now I question for you. What are your Christmas dinner plans? I'm not inviting you because you all live too far away; I'm just curious. Our dinner is traditionally on Christmas Eve. We also generally have a big old hunk of beef roasted to perfection by Big Daddy. I'm planning on trying Jamie's Yorkshire Pudding recipe this year and make some sort of green bean dish. We often have brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes. What's on your menus?

After dinner we are planning to attend the late choral service at church. It may be late for the Monkey, but she can sleep. Last year we attended the afternoon "family" service complete with all songs done by the children's choir. It was painful (unless of course it was your child singing, I'm sure.). After, we'll toss her in bed and Big Daddy and I can enjoy a few Christmas Eve cocktails while Santa is putting the presents under the tree.

*I'm only listing B.D.'s gifts as he is in town and only reads my blog (rarely) when he is out of town. So the surprise is safe for now. I'm sure Monkey will tell him what we got him as soon as he gets home.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

La Bûche de Noël

Here it is in all it's glory. The meringue mushrooms were added just before the class party. It was a hit and was pretty tasty. But really, with that much chocolate buttercream how could it not be tasty? Before the bûche was sawed into many pieces we sang French carols (O.K., the mother who is a French teacher and I sang French carols). While we were eating Père Noël visited and left treats in all the children's shoes on the porch. Yes, the Christmas party was French themed as the students have been learning about France for the last month or so. I thought it was rather inspired of Monkey's teacher to take on a French Christmas.

Today is the start of Monkey's holiday break. We made sugar cookies in the shape of Christmas trees and mittens together. I rolled the dough, she cut the shapes, and we both decorated with colored sugar and dragees. Monkey ate an abnormal amount of silver dragees. I hope they don't adversely affect her in any way... Big Daddy is coming home from Virginia tonight. Monkey and I have been working on a dinner of chicken soup and a loaf of fresh bread.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Holiday Stress Anyone?

My stress level really isn't that high. I have everything plotted and planned carefully (as long as the weather cooperates and the heavens stay in alignment). As soon as the butter and eggs reach room temperature, I will be making the butter cream and will start assembling the buche de noel. To answer Jamie's question on yesterday's post, the mushrooms will be meringue. A friend offered to make them because she likes to. Her daughter is in Monkey's class.

All packages have been sent. I'm planning on finishing my shopping tomorrow. Monkey's Christmas holiday starts Thursday.

Oh and is it sacreligious to say that because of this I will be in even a more festive mood? I don't think so.

Monday, December 19, 2005

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

Well, not really. We are in the South after all.

We did have a rather nasty storm last week. Monkey had her first snow day, or rather ice day on Thursday. Despite the dire warnings from the weather man, we did not suffer much. Friends to the south were not so lucky and those closer to South Carolina are still without power. Yesterday we visited some who had delayed their annual Christmas party for a few days. Luckily they have a reserve heat source and several large fireplaces. The party was held in the afternoon to the glow of candle light. They had been busy with chainsaws cleaning up downed trees so people could get to their house. We all brought presents for several needy families in the area (the main reason for the party) and then enjoyed a rather festive afternoon. Who needs power?

I still have some last minute shopping to do for Big Daddy and Monkey. Right now I am in the middle of making a Buche de Noel for Monkey's class to enjoy on their last day of school this Wednesday. I'm not sure how I got talked into making one. I've never made one before. I am a fool. The genoise is done and I need to make the butter cream then assemble it all tomorrow. If it turns out halfway decent, I'll post photos. I just had to save the cooling genoise cake from the clutches of Gigi. She's a rather athletic and ballsy dog. She's been banished outside until the cake cools. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Small Winter Feast

Today I made some beer bread (or to be more specific Highland Gaelic Ale Bread) loaded with sharp cheddar and rosemary. It went great with a dinner of roasted chicken, green beans and a wild rice and pecan pilafy thing. It was oh-so-perfect for today's cold weather. The chickens even went to bed early; heading for their roosts before 4:00 p.m.

We have an ice storm warning for tonight through tomorrow. I think I would prefer snow. Ice means our power may go out. Luckily we have water stored (no power, no pump for the well). We have plenty of cookies and leftover chicken. If the power goes out we'll just huddle around the fireplace in our -40 sleeping bags and roast marshmallows!

I hope the weather isn't too bad tomorrow. I need to get more raspberries for my raspberry truffles and the only place I've found nice ones is at Fresh Market, clear on the other side of town. The first batch is almost gone thanks to Big Daddy and Monkey. I also gave quite a few away. They only last a few days. What can be better than a raspberry enveloped in a Chambord-laced ganache? Not much.

Monday, December 12, 2005


It seems everywhere that I turn there is some sort of countdown to Christmas - only so many shopping days left, only a few days to get packages in the mail so they arrive in time, only so many days left of free shipping!

Saturday was gift-buying day. Today and tomorrow I will be wrapping and mailing packages to their various destination's. Yesterday was the start of baking. Monkey helped make the gingerbread men (and girls). We made spritz cookies in little tree shapes. Today I'll make some wreaths. Big Daddy has finished his chocolate balls (a fabulous candy - I'll try to pass along the recipe, if I can wrangle it out of him). He also made a mess of nut brittle.

In the ecclesiastical sense, we are counting down the last days of dark waiting. And what better way to face that waiting than to have a big party? That's the Episcopalian approach. Because what says Advent better than copious amounts of wine and a vast array of calorie-laden goodness? Last night we got together with friends from church for the annual Advent wine and cheese party. I made the following tasty treat.

taken from Gourmet December 2004

1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 lb chilled Roquefort cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
1/3 cup sesame seeds (2 oz.)

  • Pulse flour and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle cheese into mixture and pulse a few times to incorporate. Transfer mixture to a work surface (it will be crumbly) and knead briefly to distribute ingredients (do not overwork), then press together to form a dough and roll into a 7-inch log (about 2 inches in diameter). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
  • Put oven rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet.
  • Put sesame seeds on a plate. Cut dough into scant 1/4-inch-thick slices with a sharp, think knife (I used dental floss) then gently press both sides of each biscuit in sesame seeds to coat and arrange 1/2 inch apart on baking sheet.
  • Bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool biscuits on a baking sheet on a rack 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer with a spatula to rack to cool completely.

I didn't have Roquefort on hand. I used a mixture of Bleu d'Avignon and a locally made blue from Bath County, Virginia. My dough was a little too crumbly, so you may play with proportions a little. My baking time was also a little longer, which could be due to altitude or the not so fantastic oven that the builder of our home installed. They did turn out quite tasty and went very well with wine.

This week I'll be making raspberry truffles, grasshopper bars, the ever-popular chocolate chip cookie and some pinwheel cookies. Wish me luck.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Big Daddy Saves Christmas

I spent two days looking for what must be the most coveted toy for the 3+ year old girl set. Every little girl seems to want the Cinderella Twinkle Lights Pumpkin Carriage. At each store I was faced with an empty spot mocking me where my daughter's desired present should be. Every clerk shook their head and said that they couldn't keep them on the shelves. There were no pumpkin carriages to be found. The thing lights up when Cinderella steps inside for Christ's sake! This is the first time I've experienced the shock and terror known by many parents before me. My little girl's desires must be fulfilled. Panic was setting in. I broke down and called Big Daddy.

Big Daddy went to the K-Mart by his office. And there what to his wondering eyes did he see? High up on the top shelf sat one Cinderella Twinkle Lights Pumpkin Carriage With Horse alone and forgotten. He snatched it up and brought it home. It's hidden in my studio and awaits wrapping and delivery under the tree Christmas morning. Big Daddy apparently found the last remaining carriage in Asheville. Hooray for Big Daddy! Christmas has been saved!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Thousand Apologies

Life got in the way. I've had an exhausting time the last week or so, and somehow I just let writing slip by me. My birthday was December 1 and the festivities seemed to carry on for many days. Big Daddy answered all my prayers and gave me this. Let the wild baking commence!

I spent a rather long three day weekend at a dog agility trial. It was the first for Biscuit and I after over a year and half. She is now fully recovered from illness and injury. While not back to her former glory, she did well and even finished another title. We even took along Gigi (against Biscuit's wishes) so she could become acquainted with the chaos of an agility trial. And it is chaos. Dogs are barking, running and generally doing what dogs do. Whistles are blowing and there are horns and buzzers and some very loud handlers. Biscuit and I are quiet (except when her beagle howl escapes every now and again).

Here's a shot of the wonder dog during her most excellent Jumpers run during the team competition on Friday. Our team, made up of Biscuit, a rather sweet Shetland Sheepdog, and a beagle/cattle dog mix, did not place, but we weren't at the bottom either. Better luck next time!

We are waiting on a big ice storm. I hope it comes later tonight and not earlier. Monkey and I have been invited to dinner by friends. Big Daddy was supposed to have been in Virginia through tomorrow, but they finished early so everyone could beat the winter weather home.