Enjoying life's adventures in a secluded mountain cabin

Posts tagged ‘cooking’

Unexpected Happiness

How many of you out there consider yourselves to be Type A people?  I don’t fall completely into that category, but I do have strong tendencies toward it.  And I used to be a whole lot worse.  Little things would get to me so badly.  Spilled milk would literally bring me to tears at times.  Especially if the milk were spilled right after I’d mopped the floor which usually was the only time that ever seemed to happen.  Looking back, I can laugh now at just how ridiculous this reaction was.  I’ve lightened up and let go quite a bit in the last few years.

However, there are still things that just make my skin crawl and illicit strange reactions, usually laced with a slew of profanities that are normally reserved for the really bad things in life.  Things that don’t seem to affect the Type B people in the world.  Things like spilling something on my clothes; mud tracked on the floors, especially if I’ve just swept or mopped; mascara being smudged on my face instead of my eyelashes in a hurried, frenzied attempt to get ready when I’m running late; people who cannot drive and should not be allowed to operate a vehicle, but always decide to pull out in front of me when I’m in a hurry.

And then, there’s the one that inspired me to write today.  And this is something I’ve done more often than I care to admit.

How many of you have went to cook/bake something and only after you’ve started realized that you didn’t have all the ingredients needed to make whatever it was you were cooking/baking?  Now, you’d think as many times as I’ve done this that I’d look and make sure that I have everything necessary before undertaking anymore cooking/baking.  Nope.  Not me.  I still find this happening at least once or twice every few months.  And the stress levels are always higher during the holidays, which leads to me forgetting ingredients even more so than usual, which also leads into a much more dramatic meltdown when the moment actually arrives when I figure out that I don’t have what’s needed and necessary to complete my cooking/baking.

This year was no different, as far as the forgetting goes.

We made cookies for Santa this year, just like a lot of folks do.  We were going to make Mountain Man’s Mom’s sour cream cookies, but we waited too long and ended up just making some plain old sugar cookies.  I don’t think Santa has a preference on cookies, but those sour cream cookies are pretty darn tasty.  Well, that was strike one.  I really had my heart set on making those cookies this year.  But, I put all that aside and just went with the easier sugar cookie recipe that I could whip up rather quickly.  No melt down.  Not yet, anyway.

We got the cookies baked and set them aside to cool while we all got ready to go to my family’s Christmas get-together on Christmas Eve.  We planned to decorate them that night once we returned from the big family festivities.  Waiting until late Christmas Eve to decorate Santa’s cookies with a seven year old, strike two.  Last minute things always stress me out.  I’m a planner.  A doer.  I don’t like feeling rushed.  I get sweaty and I just wanna throw up.  But, I put all that aside and I tried just rolling with the punches.  Playing it by ear.  Enjoying the moment and not stressing about the time crunch.  Santa surely wouldn’t stop by while we were still decorating cookies for him?  Would he?  And surely he wouldn’t just skip right over our house if we were still up at midnight covered in frosting and enjoying a little sugar high from all the cookies and frosting we were eating and licking off our fingers during this little last minute Christmas project?

Now, for me, having these two things already going against every grain and fiber of my being to just slip into a full on holiday melt down, but refraining and actually relaxing and embracing the new and last minuteness of all this Christmas madness was a feat in and of itself.  I was so proud of myself at this point.

Then, it happened.

Somewhere around 10 o’clock, Christmas Eve, after mixing the four or five bowls of frosting up, I opened the cabinet to get the food coloring out so I could tint the frosting for the cookies.  See the pattern here, after mixing the frosting, then and only then, did I look for my other essential ingredient.  Bright red, vivid green, bold blue, vibrant yellow.  You know, Christmas colors.  Guess what we were out of?  Yep, you got it.  Red, green, blue and yellow food coloring.  And I just knew we had these items in the house.  I knew it!  I pulled every single item out of that cabinet looking for those elusive colors.  They weren’t there.

However, we did have a box of neon food coloring.  Neon food coloring.  Who has neon food coloring just lying around their kitchen?  I can’t even begin to imagine what I’d bought those colors for.  Oh, wait.  It just came to me.  I bought them for decorating little girl’s birthday cakes.  So anyway, in this box of neon colors, we had fabulous shades of purple, pink, yellow/green and blue.  Absolutely not anything that even remotely resembled Christmas colors!

I could feel the demon rising inside me.  I could feel the melt down coming on.  I’d been able to keep it at bay with the other two things that usually would’ve set me off.  Why oh why hadn’t I checked to make sure we’d had the right colors for Christmas cookies?  How could I have over looked something so important?  And on Christmas Eve!  Of all days to forget something so crucial!!!!  What was wrong with me???  How could I be so stupid!!!!???!!!!

None of these thoughts found their way to my mouth.  Thank God!  And about the time the sweat beads started to form and the nausea was just about to kick in and the words were ready to spill out, Mountain Man came to the rescue.  God love him.  He’s one of those Type B people.  At times like these, I envy him so much.  I think he knew I was fixing to just dissolve into tears because he walked over and touched me gently and started explaining how it didn’t matter that we didn’t have the traditional Christmas colors for our Christmas cookies.  They didn’t have to be bright red, vivid green, bold blue or vibrant yellow to be Christmasy.  We’d have funky, psychedelic Christmas cookies this year!

He explained to me that the best memories are sometimes born out of the most unexpected things.  And he’s right.  I knew in that moment that he was right and I could actually feel my melt down start to dissipate as he spoke.  The little beads of sweat just went away and my nauseousness disappeared.  Mountain Man talked about one day in the far off future, how his little girl would always remember the psychedelic funky Christmas cookies from the year we didn’t have any regular food colors.  And I really hope he’s right.  I hope we talk about the funky Christmas cookies for many years to come.  My youngest son still talks about the year that I sprinkled nutmeg all over the turkey instead of poultry seasoning because I was in a hurry and grabbed the wrong thing out of the cabinet.  I freaked out thinking the turkey would be awful, but it turned out to be one the best ones I ever made.  And he will always remember that.

Change can be a very scary thing for some people.  It can be a terrifying thing for us Type A people.  And even though I’m not on the extreme side of the Type A spectrum, I do know that I have tendencies to go overboard sometimes.  I like to think that our funky psychedelic Christmas cookies helped me overcome a great obstacle in life.  I hope that I can approach all future cooking/baking dilemmas where I’ve forgotten a seemingly crucial ingredient with a different attitude.  One with hope and optimism instead of profanities spewing and nausea inducing stress.  Perhaps it’ll even spill over to different areas of my life as well.

I’ve just got to keep reminding myself that it’s the little things in life that mean so much.  Especially the unexpected ones.

I have to thank my Mountain Man for pointing this out to me and reminding me that this would be something wonderful to write about.  I don’t know what I’d do without him.

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I Love Lucy

Tomorrow would have been the late, great Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday.  Now, I don’t know ’bout y’all, but here in our house, this day simply cannot pass without a little celebration in her honor.

I had the distinct honor and pleasure of sharing this wonderfully funny and endearing lady with the next generation and I’m telling you, I don’t know who loves Lucy more, me or this 6 year old little girl!  Nearly every single day that she was with us this past winter, she had to watch Lucy and she still wants us to have “Lucy days” together.  You gotta love her!

I have always loved Lucy for as long as I can remember.  And last year for Christmas, my Mountain Man gave me the second best gift I’ve ever received in my whole entire life.  My baby sister who was born on Christmas eve takes the top spot in that category.  But last year, I was brought to tears when I opened up this…

…the I Love Lucy box set that includes every single episode ever made!  I think I might’ve squealed just a little!  I honestly don’t know who enjoyed Christmas more that year, me or the kids.

So, to commemorate this day, we’re gonna bake red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, complete with great big L’s on them, and we’re gonna watch a few of our favorite episodes.  I hope those of you out there that love Lucy as much as we do will also do something special in honor of everybody’s favorite red-head!

One of My Favorite Meals

Honest to goodness, I truly believe that I won some sort of jackpot in the heavens when I was blessed with Mountain Man.  And for many different reasons, but one of the most important would have to be his ability to make some of the best food that has ever crossed my lips.

Now of course, I’m not with him solely for his culinary skills.  There are many other wonderful qualities that this delicious specimen of the male species possesses.  But for a gal such as myself, who, at times, would rather eat than breathe, this man just might be the soul mate that I’ve spent a great deal of my life dreaming about.

Last night, my Mountain Man made one of my absolute favorites of all time.

Spaghetti.

I’m not talking about noodles and jarred, store-bought sauce, either.  I’m talking about sauce made with fresh picked tomatoes from our garden, onions and green peppers diced up, minced garlic, basil, oregano and whatever other ingredients Mountain Man puts in there when I’m not looking.  Honestly, this spaghetti is comparable to a religious experience for me.  I’m not sure he’s ever made it the same way twice, either.  It’s always just a little bit different with a new level of yumminess to tickle my taste buds and delight my soul.

And as usual, it was his best yet.  This is a running joke here at the cabin because every single time he makes spaghetti, it is always better than the last!

I think I might’ve even ask him to marry me once while eating this dish.  It’s just that good!

Carrying On An Old Family Tradition

I grew up not too far from where we live now.  In the next county over, as a matter of fact.  And like most people ’round here, my grandparents were close by.  They didn’t live next door like a lot of my friend’s grandparents did, but they were only a short drive away and we were there most every single day of my life for as long as I can remember.  Most of my childhood memories involve Granny and Paw in some form or fashion and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

One of those memories that’s been replaying in my head over the past couple of months involves helping Paw in the garden and then, later on in the summer, sitting on the porch with Granny and my Mama, either breaking or shelling beans to be canned.  Even though I absolutely loathed this task as a child, I sure do miss those hot afternoons spent listening to Granny and Mama gossiping back and forth while we all messed with those beans ’till our fingers were raw and in bandages.

As a young child, I never really understood the value in all that painstaking, backbreaking work in the garden and then later in the sweltering hot kitchen.  I didn’t understand why on earth they didn’t just buy their food at the grocery store like “normal” people.  Didn’t they have anything better to do than work their fingers to the bone?  Literally, to the bone at times, I might add!  Weren’t they absolutely exhausted after working 8 hours on their jobs?  Didn’t they just wanna come home, relax and unwind, like “normal” people?  Wouldn’t they rather spend their weekends doing anything other than planting, weeding, watering, weeding, feeding, weeding, harvesting, breaking, shelling, shucking, peeling, cooking, canning, and freezing?

Whew…  Just typing that was exhausting!

Now… Fast forward about 25 years or so, and here I am, living a very similar kind of life.  On a much smaller scale, of course.  We don’t have the space for a huge garden like Granny and Paw had.  Our garden may not be huge, but it keeps us busy enough, that’s for sure.  Living on the side of a mountain, we didn’t exactly have the luxury of just plowing up a little plot to make us a garden.  Mountain Man and I literally built our garden!  We have a raised bed garden that required dirt to be moved from one area to fill it in.  And let me just tell ya, that was no easy task.

Then of course came the task of sectioning off different areas for different things, the planting, the watering, the weeding, the feeding, more weeding, more watering, and so on, and so forth.  You get the picture.  But, you know what?  I’ve gotten more enjoyment and fulfillment out of this garden than I ever thought possible.  Mountain Man and I walk out there every afternoon to tend to our creation and take care of any weeds or bugs that might be threatening our harvest.  We fight off the little flying winged devils that threaten to carry us off every time we set foot outside and we withstand this scorching heat that’s taken over here in the mountains.  And we love every minute of it.

We’ve now started to see some of the fruits of our labor and with each delectable bite, I’m starting to see why Granny and Paw always insisted on growing their own vegetables instead of just settling for whatever the grocery stores might be offering.  And what good would a garden be for people like Mountain Man and myself if we weren’t going to try to preserve some of this wonderful goodness to enjoy when Old Man Winter decides to show up?

So, along with the gardening, we’ve also ventured down the path of canning and preserving our harvest.  Neither one of us has ever canned anything before, even though my childhood is rich with memories of this process and his parents can food every year.  As you can imagine, this has been an interesting endeavor to say the least.  We’ve studied up on the subject, perused the internet, bought a book, bought all the necessary equipment, bought, picked and harvested all the necessary ingredients needed, and set out on our task.

We both made phone calls to our families for extra tips and helpful hints.  I called Granny, of course, and he called his Mom and Dad.  And you know, with a little help from them, a few recipes, a little luck, and a wink and a nod from the canning gods, we managed to make it through our first canning session and we have many more planned for the very near future.

This latest adventure has given me a whole new appreciation for my grandparents and all the hard work they put into making sure we all had food for the winter.  Even though we never really would’ve gone hungry since we only lived about 15 minutes from the nearest grocery store!   All that hard work paid off when the first chill of fall set in and then later, with the biting cold of winter knocking on our door.  Eating those beans, tomatoes, pickles, corn, soups, sauces, jams and jellies that Granny had canned and we had helped her to prepare not only nourished our bodies, but they fed our souls as well.  Honestly, nothing you can buy in the grocery store will ever taste as good and be as soul satisfying as something you’ve poured your heart into.   And to think, it only took me a couple of decades for this little epiphany to occur and settle into my existence!

Up next:  Adventures In Canning!!!

Fresh Veggies

Honestly, is there anything better than garden fresh veggies?  And I’m not talking about going to your local produce stand here y’all.  I’m talking about walking less than thirty feet out my front door to pick the most delectable, absolutely life-alteringly good tomatoes in the world!  Mountain Man would argue that the best tomatoes come from Illinois, and granted, they are pretty dang tasty.  But our blood, sweat, and tears have went into these tomatoes and the other veggies growing out there, so they’re pretty darn awesome, to me!

 

 

Our cucumbers, radishes, and green onions have been pretty good, too.  After what seems like endless weeks of patiently waiting, watering, feeding, and spraying with soapy water to keep the bugs at bay, it appears that the cucumbers are quadrupling daily!  We’re planning to make pickles so this is most definitely a good thing.

And the tomato plants!  Aaahhh!  They’re gorgeous!!!  We were a little worried about them at first.  They didn’t really appear to be doing all that well for the longest time, but then they suddenly started to flourish overnight, it seemed.  Now, we’ve got some really big plants and one in particular is just hanging with big, juicy, green tomatoes, just waiting to ripen up in the hot sun.  We’ve already eaten a few of them and they were really delicious.  Now, our little grape tomatoes are starting to come in and they, too, are just scrumptious!

 

 

I’m afraid though, that once everything starts coming in, we’re gonna be bombarded with tomatoes and cucumbers all at once.  Since we’re gonna be canning most of our crop, this will actually be a good thing.  I think…

Slowing Down

Living up here in a cabin in the woods is kinda laid back most of the time.  We don’t particularly get in a rush to do much of anything.  Sure, everything gets done, but it’s different from how I used to live my life when I lived in town.  Before I met the man who slowed me down.

I can’t even imagine what he thought when we first started spending time together.  For me, life was always on the move.  I was always rushing from one thing to the next.  Most of the time, moving so fast I couldn’t even slow down to enjoy simple things.  Sure, I still paused for the sunset every evening to admire the colors and be thankful for the day.  And I still enjoyed a leisurely hour long soak in the tub, but I was literally running through the rest of my day.  Basically living on auto pilot.  I was excellent at multitasking!  I prided myself on being able to take care of so many things at one time!  That was one of my strong points.  Or, so I thought.  Boy, was I ever wrong!

Then, as if sent from the heavens above to rescue me from this life of mundane warp speed living that I’d become so accustomed to, this wonderfully calm man came into my life and showed me the error of my ways.  I hadn’t really noticed just how different this magnificent creature and I were when it came to our approach on tasks in life until he cooked for me for the very first time.  I’ll never forget that first meal as long as I live.

I was in amazement.  I remember just sitting there, in his kitchen, watching in awe at how graceful and purposeful his every move was.  How comfortable he was.  How confident he was.  He was moving so slowly and methodically and he appeared to be actually enjoying what he was doing.  He wasn’t just cooking, he was cooking!  I was in a trance watching him.  I could feel my body start to relax and unwind.

With every stir of a spoon, chop of a knife, dash of a seasoning, or cute little smile he shot me, my heart was melting and I found myself able to breathe, for what felt like the first time ever in my life!  Never had I seen anyone so at ease and so comfortable in the kitchen.  Little did I know, but his approach to cooking paralleled his approach to life in so many ways, which could explain why I was so drawn to his laid back style.

I had no idea that the meal he was preparing that night would set the stage for so many more meals together.  So many conversations between us while he cooked and I watched.  So many little kisses or quick hugs between prepping, cooking and plating some of the most exquisitely, scrumptious food I’ve ever had the privilege of putting in my mouth.  So many moments spent finally being able to relax in his easy way of living.

Slowing down has been one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to this ol gal.  As it turns out, being a really good multitasker just wasn’t working for me.  And while some may pride themselves on being able to do a zillion things at once, if they’d just slow down long enough to breath from time to time, they too would see that there’s more to life than getting it all done.  Sometimes, you just gotta let go and hope for the best.

Now, two years and many life-altering meals later, Mountain Man still never ceases to amaze me with both his culinary skills and his laid back approach to life.  I can’t imagine I’ll ever go back to my whirlwind days.  Sure, I find myself slipping back into that world of insanity once in a while, but it doesn’t last long.  I just pull up a chair and watch my Mountain Man cook something, and everything suddenly feels better again.  He keeps me sane in a world gone mad.

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