Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

2014 was a good year, a regular year. At the end, my father died. That wasn't regular. We weren't close. That wasn't regular either. Oh well. I hadn't seen him in 8 years, and not for many years before that. But it's still hard to know that he isn't just distant, but forever gone.

Last January a third cat adopted me. I wasn't looking for another cat. I was very happy with two older cats. But the kitten was gong to die out there in the frozen cold, so...He's inside now and very loving and sweet. Murray. He only jumps on Luke's head sometimes.

Otherwise, it was a year that clicked along normally, albeit on the school calendar and not the calendar calendar. I love the school calendar year. (As an expatriate New Englander, an Aug to May school year just wrong. The school year should be September to June. But I digress). I love my job. In 2014 I went to work, went to church, went out a (very) few times with friends. I read books and wrote my 3,026th blog essay and adjusted to the changing seasons, and all the normal things. It's a normal life. A quiet life.

A few weeks ago I slipped in a large puddle inside a classroom, from a heretofore unknown roof leak. I was be-bopping pretty fast, and went down like a cartoon character, feet in the air and hit hard with stars rotating around my head. I was sent to the doctor, and he took an X-ray. Thankfully no bones were broken, just severely bruised, but he said, "You have quite a bit of arthritis in your knees. You probably knew that."

No. No I didn't know that. I didn't WANT to know that. See? This is why I don't like going to the doctor. Now I'll just fixate on my hurting knees, where before they felt fine.

Today was the first time Murray the new kitten sought cuddling. He'd cuddle before, but only for a few moments. Today he asked several times, persistently like cats do, and snuggled deep and purred. Welcome home Murray! You're finally a house cat.

This evening a friend stopped over and dropped off a gift basket, containing a new mug with tea, biscotti, and hot chocolate. Best of all we chatted in the driveway (her kids were in the car so she couldn't come in) and we laughed. It felt good to laugh. It is so nice to have friends. I am very, VERY blessed.

I learned how to do that HDR kind of color splash thing. See?

EPrata photo
That's my New Year's Resolution.

Happy New Year everyone.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

After almost a week of sopping, cold rain, the day dawned bright and clear. I'm glad for the people who have to travel. I am only going a mile down the road, to have Christmas supper with friends later.

Meanwhile, I've been playing with my photo editing software. I am making collages, and I am also experimenting with color splash. In Color splash, it strips the photo of color, except for the one spot the editor wants to splash back in. Here are the results of some of the splashes and collages.

In splash, I discovered, the key is to find one large graphic that is colorful. Most of my bird photos are of brown birds so when stripping the photo of extraneous color and adding back in the black or brown, it doesn't make for too much of a splash, lol. Here is one bird photo I'd had that was colorful. Kind of.

In the photo below, I snapped it at Campobello in New Brunswick Canada. It is of a pitcher plant, (a carnivorous plant like the Venus flytrap) and the surrounding color was various shades of green. I stripped the green and added back the plant's natural red.

In these collages, I know I went overboard with adding elements, but I am a child of a first camera being old Olympus with the 1940s huge flash bulbs and using 35 mm film, then waiting a week for your developed photos to come back. Being of an age to see the entry of digital photography into the world and then the added bonus of free photo editing software has simply made me giddy with delight.

In the photo below I began with a picture of the moon.

Then I added stuff. The butterfly is my photo too.

The "If not us..." will become a series on my other blog. The quote refers to Christians who are called to witness and testify to the power of a risen Christ.

In this next collage, I started with a photo of heather, a weed that grows around here.

Then I added stuff. I was reminded of the verse about the wheat and the tares, or the seed that falls on the weed.

I have lots and LOTS of photos of boats. These are both from Lubec Maine, bordering Canada. The natural slate gray of the water and the brown of the dock made it easy to strip the color, retaining the already existing blue on both boats

So that is some of the fun I am having today.

Last night was quiet. A friend stopped over and we visited and had Christmas cookies and tea. Then I watched documentaries and then listened to Louis Prima for a while. Right now I'm going to get dressed and take a walk in the sunshine. With my camera of course ;)

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My father's obituary: John B. Prata Jr.

PRATA, JOHN B. JR. of North Kingstown and Naples, FL passed away on December 15, 2014 at 12:15pm. He was the loving husband of Raisa E. Prata with whom he had resided for 16 years. Born in Providence, he was the son of the late John and Yolanda (Bernardoni) Prata.

Besides his wife, he is survived by his three children: Elizabeth of Georgia, Christopher (Sharon) of RI and Jessica (Stephen) Ph.D. Miller of Maine and two grandchildren. He also leaves three sisters: Norma Prata of Providence, Lorraine (Raymond) Tortolani of Florida, Janet Msumba of Massachusetts, two grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

John was graduated from Classical High School, class of 1951, and the University of RI in 1954, with a degree in Accounting and Economics. He was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity where he served as Secretary and Treasurer.

He entered the Navy Officer Candidate School and was commissioned an Ensign in May, 1955. John served aboard the USS Estes out of San Diego and participated in Operation Redwing in the Marshall Islands, Redwing being the hydrogen bomb tests at Bikini and Enewetok atolls. He later served at Quonset Point where he was the Paymaster.

USS Estes
Redwing: "Erie", Runit Island, Enewetak Atoll, 1956
Upon separation from active duty John entered the New England Institute of Anatomy in Boston where he received a diploma in embalming in June 1959. He was elected President and graduated first in his class. He entered the family business where he served his apprenticeship and earned titles of Registered Embalmer and Licensed Funeral Director. During his tenure at Prata Funeral Homes John was elected President and Treasurer, eventually expanding the business from four funeral homes to nine, becoming the largest Funeral Service firm in RI. He was also President and Treasurer of the New England Soliciting Co. and The Merritt Co., both being burial insurance firms. He also founded Westminster Memorials, Inc. a cemetery monument company.

In 1972 John founded J. B. Prata, Ltd. a coater of adhesive tapes and printer labels, marketing its products throughout the U.S., Europe and South America. In 1964 he entered politics in East Greenwich as a member of the East Greenwich Republican Town Committee. He ran for and was elected a member of the Town Council in 1966 and was re-elected in 1968 serving as Vice President of the Council. In 1972 he was elected Chairman of the Republic Town Committee. With quality candidates and outstanding efforts by Committee members, all 20 of the contested positions were won by Republicans, a first in everyone's memory.

He also served as President of the East Greenwich Jaycees, founded the Golden Agers Club, was a founding member of Save the Bay, and a founder and officer of The Greenwich Club. Online condolences may be made at

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas vacation started yesterday at 2:30

Today was the first day of Christmas vacation. Phew. Working in school is great, and being stationed in the kindergarten wing is the best, if you ask me. Except perhaps, the excitement the week before Christmas break. It all gets to be a little much, lol. The kids are wildly excited and as Friday nears they can barely think straight. It truly, truly is like herding cats.

Our state is being hit hard with flu, extra quickly and extra severely.

Center for Disease Control
These last ten weekdays we had many children out with the flu and many staff as well. At one point with three kindergarten classes, we had only about 10 kids in each class, or nearly a 50% absentee rate in our wing. Other grades were not so hard hit. The little ones don't seem to take the no nose-picking, no uncovered sneezes, no uncovered coughing as seriously. Germs spread fast. I'm glad vacation came now so that we can all clear to personal home corners and stop the contagion.

Today I slept until 7:00 am, late for me. I enjoyed leisurely coffee, watched the last two episodes of the British detective show "Broadchurch." Then I had a nice brunch and then went back to bed at 10:00 until noon.

When I awoke I decided to finally clean out the fridge and do the dishes. When I'd completed that long-overdue task, I processed fruit. I'd bought a pineapple, half-cantaloupe, mangoes, and grapefruits several days ago. Unprocessed fruit does not do my body one bit of good so I spent a while chopping and peeling. If it is ready in the fridge, I'll eat it. I hate to see unpeeled fruit go to waste. Now I have chopped up and cleaned fruit to throw in the delicious homemade granola my friend gave me for my birthday. I also roasted potatoes, broccoli, and processed a bunch of jalapeno peppers and roasted them too. A friend gave me some of her fresh eggs for a Christmas present so I boiled four eggs to be ready to put into spinach salads this week. All that took me several hours.

The afternoon was filled with bible study, and also learning how to use the new bible study software I'd bought. I studied the Sunday School lesson, and I wrote a blog entry at the other blog, ("The Way of Balaam"). Then the evening was for dinner (ham sandwich and roasted potatoes and broccoli) and playing with photos. I experimented with layering and making a collage out of one of my pictures. I'd taken a shot of the full moon last week, and I used a lasso tool to make a cutout of a butterfly photo I had. I opened Pixlr to layer with the items they have on their photo editing software. It's harder than it looks, but here is what I came up with-

We go back to school January 5 and the kids return January 6. I'm looking forward to more study, more reading, more learning how to make art out of my photos, more cooking, and more tv and movie watching. I like the hermitage here, and I don't plan any social activities.

Except for church. And speaking of that, I better get to bed so I'll awaken fresh and ready to worship tomorrow, this last Sunday before the birth of our Savior.

Vacation is here and it just feels so good!!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fresh bread and staying in

I'm still in my pajamas. I'm savoring every last moment of school break.

In my defense, I was making bread in the machine and I didn't want to leave the house until it was finished. A safety precaution, not leaving the apartment with electrical appliances running.

Now I'm waiting for the bread to cool for ten minutes, so I can slide it out of the pan. But then I'll need to wait another thirty minutes to slice it so I can taste and see if the switch to different ingredients improved it any.

After that I'll be guessing I'll need to wait until the carb coma nap has passed. But then it will be dark and I won't want to go out anyway. If you give a mouse a cookie...

I'll probably go out, really. I need to use my $5 off coupon from the Dollar Store and I definitely need some groceries. I don't have the ingredients to make pea soup, and what would the start of my winter week at work be with no soup??

screen grab
I watched an independent documentary last night, "The NY Pizza Confessions." It was an OK movie, consisting of mostly stopping people on the streets of NY to ask them their opinion about pizza. Only one guy, a recent immigrant, said he did not like it. But he said he DID like the fact that New York is exactly the same as in the movies.

One gal who was pretty expressive, said that getting a slice last thing at night after a hard day, is like putting a pillow inside of you. Right on, sister.

One guy who was stopped on the street gave his answer to the pizza question, then said like a typical New Yorker, "Um, I don't want to be're doing it wrong." The cameraman laughed and said "Is that right? Would you like to try?" And the New Yorker said, "Yes!" He took the microphone and put on the headphones and walked up and down the street interviewing people for a long time, lol.

There was a very affecting and poignant interview with a homeless man. Apparently there is one spot down near the wharves where you can get a slice for a dollar. The homeless and migrants panhandle for change until they accumulate enough, then they buy a slice. And then start all over.

This man the crawl said was "Al Carpenter" spoke poignantly of life on the streets. Of trying to get people's attention who studiously look the other way, of the reduction in spirit until crime is the only way to stay alive, of all the people passing him, have a home to go to. A place where they put a key in. He spoke of loneliness. He was sad but didn't appear to be bitter, just a lost soul on the streets. It was the best part of the movie.

But then a while later he appeared again in the movie and this time his language, previously clean, was foul to the max and he was angry. Spittingly, gesticulatingly angry. Perhaps the man is schizophrenic, or perhaps simply focusing on his life to a stranger roused long suppressed emotions. I don't know.

Now here is definitely a good thing to think about. One man who was interviewed ran a pizza condiment company. You know at McDonald's you get packets of sugar or salt or pepper and they're in paper packets? This is the same, except they're strictly for pizza. The Red Pepper pack, or the Parmesan pack, or the Oregano Pack...the man said that the most unsanitary thing in a pizza parlor is the cheese shaker. People who use the bathroom and don't wash their hands use the shaker. People who cough into their hands use the cheese shaker. And then you use it and touch your pizza with those same hands. Ewwww. He has a great point.

It was a movie about pizza, why we like it, what we like on it, how to eat it, and what it represents (the more philosophical interviewees opined.)

It's warmed up here. I suppose I ought to go out and be a productive citizen and do my chores. Let me think about it for a while...while I finish my tea...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Best Food Movies!

Now that I've recovered from my turkey-stuffing-green beans-sweet potatoes-cranberry-roll-apple spice cake Thanksgiving dinner, and the obligatory leftovers of turkey-cranberry sandwich on toasted rye with sweet potatoes on the side, let's discuss the best food movies ever!

I blogged about Jiro Dreams of Sushi at my other blog, from a Christian perspective. But if you want to every detail of sushi from the buying to the preparing to the eating, and see a lovely, incredible art form of making sushi at its world highest level, this movie is for you. You WILL be hungry for sushi after.

Babette's Feast. (In Dutch with subtitles) I saw this when it first came out in 1987. It is so hard to believe it has been that long. Sigh. Anyway, it is an amazing movie. As describes the film:
Almost a quarter-century after the film's release, the culminating scene of this quietly urgent Danish drama still stands as the most beautifully rendered depiction of a lavish meal ever committed to celluloid. But it's not just spectacle for spectacle's sake: The triumphant banquet sequence also communicates volumes about the movie's central theme, the eternal tug-of-war between self-denial and sensual gratification.

Big Night: two Italian brothers in 1950s NJ run a restaurant that's failing. The elder brother (Tony Shaloub) mourns that the locals do not appreciate his delicate touch, while the younger (Stanley Tucci) persistently trues to convince his brother to try new approaches. They pin their last hopes on cooking for Louis Prima.

Kings of Pastry: once every four years French pastry competition. Lovely artistic sugar creations! Coupled with the drama and heartbreak of competition. It's gripping and absorbing...and beautiful.

The Moo Man- Yes, it is about milk. Wikipedia, "The film focusses on a small dairy farm run by Steve Hook, which produces and sells raw, unpasteurised organic milk. Near Hailsham, Sussex, Longleys Farm is situated on the Pevensey Levels. The farm was started by Steve's father Phil, who is still involved in the business, and who also features in the film, along with Steve's wife and four children. The film covers Steve's struggles to keep the 55-head-herd farm afloat in the face of the power of the supermarkets, and shows his close relationship with his cows, especially Ida, a 12-year-old Friesian. The documentary was filmed over four years." It sounds boring. It isn't.

Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers: documentary is an ode to "the stinking rose". As the reviewer in IMDBcom said, "This is a very good movie about garlic with shots from the Gilroy Garlic Festival and lots of good information about cooking with garlic from some of the best cooks in the SF Bay Area. I view this as a comprehensive guide to garlic provided in a very entertaining fashion. "

The Restauranteur: IMDB, "A film about the grueling construction of not one but two world class restaurants. We follow Danny Meyer, arguably the most successful restaurateur in America. Our cameras follow the creation of Eleven Madison Park and Tabla during the hellish eleven month construction process. Meyer imparts his business and restaurant philosophy while trying to keep his cool. Jumping back to the future, 2009, we learn how the restaurants have evolved, EMP receiving a coveted four stars by The New York Times. The title card sparked cheers in the audience at The Sonoma Film Festival, where the film was awarded Best Documentary - Food." It's really fascinating to get an insider view of what it's like to build and maintain a restaurant, and the restaurateur's philosophy of the food/dining experience. Look for a young Tom Colicchio- with hair.

Other films with food as an important plot point but not about food per se are Mystic Pizza with a young Julia Roberts and Bagdad Cafe with CCH Pounder, Jack Palance and Marianne S├Ągebrecht. For sheer quirk-to-food information ratio, you can't beat either of those movies.

TV show- The Supersizers Go... A BBC production of food history in Britain. Restaurant critic Giles Coren and comedian Sue Perkins live and eat their way through the cuisine of six different eras in Britain's history. The duo are seen by a doctor prior, then they eat, live, and dress as if they were actually living in the era (Edwardian, Restoration, WWII, Elizabethan, 1970s, and Regency. My favorite episodes were the 70s and Wartime (WWII). After ward they are seen by a doctor again and some of the eras provide surprising results as to how healthy or unhealthy their diet was. The Restoration era offered some truly sickening food but it was normal to the people living at the time. I mean, Lamb's face?  And worse. They pair gamely eat all of it. Extremely interesting, and also very entertaining!

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Follow up to crock pot cooking: sweet potatoes-quinoa patties

A couple of days ago I posted an essay about 23 crock pot recipes for Thanksgiving. I'd said I'd tried the one where you put whole sweet potatoes in the crock and cook them. It couldn't be easier. I cooked 7 sweet potatoes, which left me a lot of potatoes to eat.

So today I looked up sweet potato recipes. I found this one and I liked it because it uses quinoa. Quinoa is a super grain because it is high in protein and lacks gluten. Just how much protein is in quinoa? Wikipedia says (as do most other nutrition sites)- "Quinoa grain has been called a superfood...Nutritional evaluations indicate that quinoa is a source of complete protein. Protein content is very high for a cereal/pseudo-cereal (14% by mass), but not as high as most beans and legumes. The protein content per 100 calories is higher than brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet, but is less than wild rice and oats."

"While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom." (source)
I bought 50 pounds of red quinoa a few years ago and have stored it in the freezer. I have no idea if that was a good or bad thing to do, but it doesn't have appeared to alter the taste any. I bought the red quinoa variety.

So here are a few pics of the process of making sweet-potato quinoa patties:

Boil your quinoa. I always make extra. I use it for breakfast cereal too. Or salads. Quinoa does not take long to cook. About ten to fifteen minutes for a cup. It is done when the white coil springs out from the grain or when it is al dente-to-soft, depending on your own preference.

Chop onions and saute. Can use scallions instead if you want. I used half a small onion.

Mash your potatoes. The crock pot cooking meant that the potatoes' skin separated easily from the meat so I peeled them in just a very few moments. I used 2 medium sweet potatoes.

Add salt, a beaten egg, and a few tablespoons of flour. Add the quinoa. I eyeballed the flour and quinoa ratio. Not so wet they'd fall apart and not so dry they'd become hockey pucks.

Drop by large tablespoon and flatten a bit. Saute in hot oil. I used just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

Turn when cooked through and golden brown on the bottom. Flatten a bit again. Dry on paper towels. Oops, where did one of them go? In my tummy!

With two medium-ish sweet potatoes and about a quarter cup of quinoa I made 11 patties.

The potatoes were on sale for 38 cents around so that was a frugal deal. I'd bought the quinoa in bulk so that was a good deal also. Having a healthy patty already cooked and in the fridge means I have a healthy side dish, meal, or snack to eat when I want to nosh.

It's all good!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

23 Thanksgiving recipes you can do in the crock pot

Someone on Facebook posted the above with a link. I read most of the recipes and I was excited that I would do many of them. The easiest was the sweet potato recipe.

The Marketplace (local mom & mop grocery store) had a sale on sweet potatoes, 38 cents/pound. I bought about half a dozen potatoes and vowed to try cooking them in the crock pot.

It could not have been easier. OK, it could have, if I had a butler do it. But here is the "recipe" and I put recipe in quotes because there is nothing to it, really

Wash potatoes and poke them. As is usual, try to find potatoes that are nearly the same size so they cook evenly together. Place in crock pot. No need to prepare crock. Just put potatoes in. Cover and cook on high 3-4 hours. That's it.

Mine took 3 1/2. They come out so creamy! Very moist, just falling apart. Top with favorite topping, butter, salt, cinnamon or even a bit of brown sugar. I like doing them this way because crocks use less electricity than ovens, and also I can put them in and go take a nap for a while and not worry!

If you want to take out the meat and use for a further recipe that works too. The meat just slides out and separates from the skin very easily. Wait until they cool, though, lol. My ole mum used to make Thanksgiving dish of sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. As a kid I loved it. I still do! What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes you remember from childhood?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cold ahead, Thanksgiving ahead, Christmas crafting ahead!

Everyone around here including me, is watching the weather for the coming week with a very wary eye. The high temperature by Tuesday is supposed to be only 35 degrees. The low doesn't usually get that low this early in the season, so people are rightfully worried. Pipes aren't insulated here. There are also lots of animals to keep warm.

I'm looking forward to five more days before the week off for Thanksgiving break. I made some food for the upcoming week's meals-

--Pea soup with potatoes, carrots, onions
--Kale chips
--jalapeno corn muffins
--chopped pineapple (to throw in cottage cheese)

Pea soup is so easy to make, and so good, filling, healthy, and delicious!

I started a Christmas project. I have all these photos I took, some are good, I think. And the free digital software these days is so powerful and versatile, I can manipulate the photos and make lots of things with them. I decided to make bookmarks from my photos, add scripture, print them on quality photo paper at home, and then laminate them at school. (The School charges a reasonable rate for personal use).

Just because the project is digital, doesn't mean it's easily accomplished. It takes time to select just the right photo, add a border that complements the photo, and to find a scripture to match. Deciding on the font and placement also takes skill, just ask any graphic designer. If the end result looks good, that seems like no big deal, but it is a big deal, because the designer did a perfect job that took much time. If the font is too big or too small, too scripted and hard to read, or off center, the project will look clumsy and amateur.

I had a hard time at first with cropping the size of the bookmark just right. Two inches by 7 inches seems to be a good, proportional size for a bookmark. Two of them I've finished will need to be redone because they are too wide. I saw this when I printed out a draft copy. But here are the results of the first pass.

In real life the nail bookmark is easier to read. But you can see the issues. Choosing a photo that isn't too busy is the key. Also being able to see a large photo and crop the parts that will translate well to a 2X7 inch strip, and still tell a story is also key.

In writing when one edits, it's all about what you leave out, and the same is true of any other creative art project. It's all about what you leave out. I'm excited to use the photos I've been taking for these many decades.

I'll paste a logo on the back, here it is

Have a good week ahead, try to stay warm!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Of leaf angels and London Bridge

The Arctic Plunge weather has arrived. We had a low of 26°F and a high of 48°F. Tonight is supposed to be colder. It's unusual that the daytime temps don't rebound. The strong sun and length of time the sun is usually out tends to make a warmish daytime even in the middle of winter. Brr, we're in for a chilly night.

It was a very good week at school, and at home. I'm very blessed to have creature comforts, a good job, friends, and my church.

This week at school there were several fun events. It's a fun time of year where there are several things going on. Next Wednesday the cafeteria ladies put on a Thanksgiving feast for lunch, with all the fixins. It is always a delicious meal. The kindergartners wear their Indian or Pilgrim hats and outfits they'd made and we make a parade around the school as we go to the cafeteria.

Sleigh Ride. EPrata photo via JAdams
In December there is a Christmas program. This week our event was we had photographs with Santa. A man dressed as Santa comes in and the children can have a portrait taken, and the parents can choose to buy it or not. The day that Santa comes is a very exciting day in the kindergarten-grade 2 wing of the school. I was on hall duty by the door and I heard the excitement in the pitter-patter of running footsteps, all hurrying, one after another as they entered, to tell of the news that Santa is coming.

One boy came to tell me that Santa was HERE. He'd arrived! He said, "And he didn't come in a sleigh! He came in a Silver Ford F-150 with a front license plate that says SANTA!"

A truck is even better than a sleigh, I'm guessing by the excitement in his voice, lol.

On the playground we ended the week with a sweet moment. I sometimes despair of the life ahead of the children as the movie and television entertainment gets darker and darker with each passing season. Their impressionable minds are so drenched with dark visions and thoughts. The kids play vampire games and play zombies, and even mimic the eating habits of zombis, which of course is cannibalism. Zombies eat flesh. Sometimes the games get rough as the zombie or vampire chases after a victim and tries to catch him. The teachers always put an end to the rough play right away. In past times, I remember on the playground playing Red Rover and Foursquare and jumping rope. Where were those games? Why did they die? Where was simple innocence?

My private cry was heard...because on the last recess of the week one of the boys lining up looked up at me. All red-cheeked, happy and flushed, he said, "We played London Bridge and made leaf angels!"

Awww. Thanks for the sweetness!

Tower Bridge, London, AKA London Bridge. EPrata photo

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hibiscus flower tea: A review

I mentioned a few days ago that I was excited to have bought some new herb teas to try. I am looking for new flavor and perhaps some medicinal value. To that end, I bought rose hip tea (flavor) and hibiscus flower tea, (medicinal).

I purchased Davidson's Tea Hibiscus Flower, 100-Count Tea Bags. USDA Certified Organic and Caffeine-free. Also Organic Rose Hips Alvita Tea 24 Bag, made with premium-quality organic rose hips and produces a light and delightful fruity flavor and aroma. Traditionally used for its antioxidant properties USDA Organic Gluten Free Kosher Suggested Use

I have no sense of smell, but apparently the rose hips are not only tasty but smell like heaven. The aroma of roses lingers and makes the room smell lovely.

The hibiscus is supposed to be powerful flavor but quite astringent and its medicinal properties are supposed to aid digestion.

I made the rose hip tea and it was very lovely tasting. Gentle, flavorful, like small flowers after a dewy summer rain.

The hibiscus blew me out of the water. It was very strong, acidic, and too powerful. I tried to sweeten it with some French vanilla creamer, but the creamer curdled right away. I learned later that hibiscus is the main ingredient in red zinger tea, a tea I’ve never cared for. Oh well, there goes all my careful research. I overlooked a big one.

The problem was, the only packet the rose hips came in (organic, good price) was a 24 pack, and the hibiscus for the same reasons came in a 100 pack. Oh, dear. I goofed. I should have remembered to try first, then invest. I do not want to be stuck with 99 unused, organic hibiscus tea bags, I don’t want to throw them out, no one I know would enjoy them I don't think, and I don’t like wasting.

I’m stubborn, you see.

I could have learned to like the taste, it wasn't awful, just not my cup of tea. I hope you see what I did there. But there had to be an ever better solution.

I googled the issue and I found a great potential remedy. There was a blogger who had the same issues I did, astringent hibiscus flower tea was not so much to her liking, but she found that if she cold brewed it, the taste was gentler. In addition, she made a simple syrup to add to the brew to sweeten it.

Chilled Hibiscus flower tea, and simple syrup
A simple syrup is just that, one part water to one part sugar. Heat to dissolve, while stirring. Store in a clean, covered jar (I have plenty of Mason jars) in the fridge, and it should keep for up to two weeks.

I tried making it the other night. I popped two tea bags in cold water and a large mason jar- 32 oz I think. I poured some yesterday afternoon when I got home from school. The color is jewel-like, cranberry color. Very nice.

I added a few teaspoons of the syrup and voila! Not only drinkable tea, but delicious tea! I really enjoy it. Hibiscus tea is refreshing when chilled! The difference between heating and chilling it, and adding a touch of sweetener, made it a delightful beverage to me. Thank you google. I lift a pretty glass of chilled herb tea to you, and to the lady blogger who gave me the solution.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Color Series: White

Examining the colors of the world: white

Clouds barely there...
EPrata photo
Not red, but white barns in calm fields
EPrata photo
And white barns with weathervanes
EPrata photo
Chickens brooding white
EPrata photo
Fog on cat little cat feet
EPrata photo
Ice cold and white
EPrata photo
Mayberry white fences
EPrata photo
Snow blanketing coldly, no warmth to be found under it at all
EPrata photo
Steeples against azure
EPrata photo
Wedding dresses and promises white and fresh
EPrata photo
We opened with a clear sky and barely there clouds, and end with the sky also, a moon looming and deeply present in white against dark
EPrata photo

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Tea, cats, cooking, weekend!


I caved in and went to the clinic, and yes, the Doc diagnosed bronchitis. I get it every year, albeit earlier and earlier in the year. Actually this time I had the flu, and it left behind three weeks of fatigue, coughing, and aches that I definitely did not want to turn into pneumonia. So I was a good girl and I went..

I got my meds filled and right away I started to feel better. The inflamed lungs subsided their throbbing, cement-wright feeling. I coughed less, and I got my energy back.

Now after two days, I think I might actually stay awake all day and be somewhat productive.

I worry because the bronchial issues are a job hazard for me, and it takes more out of me each year. That was one of the reasons I quit teaching in the first place. Oh, well, I still think it is the best job in the world. I love helping kids.


Murray kept me awake last night. He had gotten a-hold of something I could not identify. I know all his sounds. THUNK mans he's shoved another book off the coffee table. BUMP means he's jumped off the kitty litter bucket onto the floor and the litter barrel thunked against the wall in a rebound from his launch. BAM means he's whacking the pictures against the wall, which means I forgot to put up the pillow barrier to stop him doing that. He has knocked two pictures off the wall and broke them, and they were expensive pieces. Fortunately I could repair them myself.

But last night it was CLINK CLINK CLINK. I dunno. This morning I was doing dishes and I saw him sitting on the buffet and reaching his paw into my dish of rocks and gems and fossils. I think that was what he did last night. He reached in and pushed off an amethyst or a shell or a fossil in my display dish onto the floor and chased it all night. I can only speculate that there is some semi-precious gem stuffed under some bookcase or nook or cranny somewhere that I'll find next year. Sigh. See? This is why I can't have nice things. LOL.


I ordered some teas to try and they came in today. Hibiscus flower and Rose Hip are two new teas for me. I am steeping rose hip tea now. It is supposed to have a lot of vitamin C and also antioxidents. I'm so excited. I love everything about tea.


Long ago I had a microwave egg poacher. It cooked two perfect nuked eggs, it only took a minute and they were the right size for English Muffins. But being made of plastic, it eventually got too unsanitary to use and I threw it out.

I have tried making poached eggs the traditional way, in water, but it takes too long, makes a mess in the pan, and the eggs don't come out in a nice circle.

I've looked for a new one ever since but have not found it in stores to my satisfaction (size, price, function). When I made my tea order I added a microwave egg poacher that looked like a good candidate. It's made of durable silicon, and has space for two eggs. The cover lets out steam and retains heat. No adding water is necessary. Here it is:

I'm so relieved they placed the neat schematic in there so I'll know where to place the eggs! LOL. It is a good cooker, the eggs came out the way I like them- with firm whites and slightly runny egg yolk. I just have to experiment with the timing. I cooked them in my 700 watt microwave for 1 min, then another min, then 15 seconds, then 30 seconds...all at half power. I'll cook in its entirety tomorrow and hopefully it won't explode.


Seeing as it is chore day, and I had some energy back from taking the meds, I decided to make hay while the sun shone. I cleaned up the kitchen and then messed it up. I made roasted scallions, cauliflower, carrots (separately) baked some potatoes, and put together an apple crumble. I defrosted some garden tomatoes I'd frozen, to make a vegetarian chili tomorrow, and also got the freshly picked jalapenos and banana peppers out for de-seeding.

It is also 'change the sheets day'.  I love making the bed with fresh sheets because I love fresh sheets when I slide into bed that night. I also enjoy making hospital corners and making the bedspread fringe line up perfectly with the bottom of the bed rail. I fluff the pillows and arrange them just right. When I come into the bedroom after that, it all looks so clean and tidy and cozy and neat and symmetrical. Bliss.

Apparently Murray thinks so too.

Aw, Murray...what am I gonna do wid you? Love you to pieces I guess!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Life on the farm

I call my place a farm, it's a semi-farm. All the properties around here if they aren't an outright farm, are a semi-farm, keeping some animals. Horses, a few chickens, a cow or two, or in my case, sheep.

The weather turned unseasonably cold, but it'll be back up to the high 60s/low 70s in a day or two. That's the great thing about Georgia weather in the winter- it might get cold but it doesn't last long. Here is the cold/freeze map-

However the growing season is pretty much over. The farmer's market goes until Dec 2 though. Farmers & growers might squeeze one or two more weeks if they cover things. I plucked my last little pepper from my plant. I ate it in eggs for breakfast yesterday.

The yard still looks lovely. The leaves don't turn much here. That's a school playground across the street.

The last morning glory?

The neighbor on the other side of the house's windchime. Her son made it.

The sheep are comfy in their winter coats. I'll have to wear a coat this morning. Practically for the first time ever. I am subbing for a friend's outside car duty this morning. It's 29 degrees. Yes, I'll need a coat if I'm going to be outside for 40 minutes. I'll get teased about this. I haven't worn a coat in 8 years. When I have outside duty it's usually at 2:00 and the day has sufficiently warmed up enough for me, this Yankee.

My friend gave me this cute tea for one set. It's by Whittard, a British tea company established in the late 1800s. You put the hot water and tea in the top and set it on the cup, which warms the cup. It is terribly cute and I got wildly excited over it. I enjoy tea every day.

The utility company put up this new pole near the fig tree. I like the yellow letters and the cool medallion on top. I'm going to add this photo to my Color Series: Yellow page.

So that's all that's happening at the homestead. I love fall in Georgia.