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Missing in Action

The cobwebs are back on my blog. The intentions of writing have been there, but remain only that, intentions. A couple of things have stopped me. I’ve started painting abstracts this year. It has consumed a great deal of my time. In addition to that, I work at an art gallery and much time is devoted there to classes, art camps, and open hours. I’ve had quite a few thoughts over the last few months about topics to cover, but focusing elsewhere has hindered the process.

Maybe I’ll post about my process of learning to paint. Maybe I’ll come up with more life skills to cover. Maybe writing about having too many irons in the fire would be a good place to start.

Until I figure it out… Take care. Thanks again for stopping by.

Cheers, Olivia

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Posted by on August 13, 2014 in Life

 

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Change Direction and Refocus

Many things in my life have been brought to front and center lately as needing some attention. Relationships with friends and family, career, and my well being in general. These different areas are all sitting in front of me in an audience with hands raised and waving in the air. It’s time to call on them.

Just a minute ago, my reminder came in the form of poetry. A friend that has been calling on many life questions of her own lately posted the last lines of

Desiderata

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

I was inspired to revisit the poem and read it again.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

So many points in this passage allow me to reflect on my own life. Thus far, 2014 has proven to be a dynamic year, full of progress and realization. I see relationships that must change or must be gone from my life, with the promise of new ones to grace me. My direction in general is brought more into focus; clarity is coming in regards to what I should be surrounded by. My purpose in life, while not clear to me in the big picture just yet, is being revealed page by page, allowing me to have experiences, learn, and hone my skills to succeed in this life.

The journey continues.

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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in Life

 

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Getting Into Hot Water

The rain here in northwest Georgia this year has been tremendous. The crops in my garden have not. A few tomatoes and a few bell peppers and some okra. Cucumbers? Pfft. Too much rain can definitely be a bad thing. (However, I am not complaining.  I love the rain.)  What do I have the most of? Hot peppers. They are thriving. The irony is, my family, nor I, don’t really eat a lot of hot peppers. Such is life. So, what to do? Give some away and can the rest.

About a week ago, I picked 50+ peppers- jalapeños and cow horns.  The jabaneros aren’t ready just yet. I knew this was going to be quite a task, as peppers are tricky to work with. 

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The beginning of the crop.

The difficulty begins in the cutting. You must wear gloves for this and remember not to touch your face or skin! The capsaicin will get you for sure.  Peppers are much like onions, giving off vapors that can affect one’s eyes and breathing. I, of course, was no exception.  After about fifteen minutes, I had to crack the windows and back door to let some fresh air in. The coughing had commenced. Once the cutting was finished, I had to wipe down every surface I had come in contact with in the gloves.  The juice and seeds had managed to spread…

The jars were ready, the peppers went in, and the water bath began.  (10-15 min)

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Jars filled, ready for the hot liquid.

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Into the canner!

After 5 or 6 minutes, I could really smell the peppers in the air, which I thought was odd. Then I really started to sneeze and cough a great deal.  I glanced at the pot and saw a couple of seeds floating in the water, which was not good, but, curious. I stared to remove them, and saw a jar bobbing in the water! Thinking to myself, surely I didn’t not leave that much air space in the jar that it would float.  In all my years of canning, I have never experienced the problem shown below.  Two of my jars had broken on the bottom! The peppers were continuing to cook and the vapors were filling the air. Not sure why this happened.  I had the jars sitting on a rack, so that they were not touching the bottom of the pot. Funny thing is, I rarely use a rack on the bottom and have never had a problem.  One of life’s mysteries, I suppose.

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Oops!

So, I cleaned the jars off under hot running water and quickly brought a fresh batch of water to a boil. Plan B was to use a vegetable steamer in the bottom.  It worked like a charm and held the weight of the jars beautifully.

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Plan B!

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Finished product. Beauties!

In the end, the result was beautiful.  My eyes eventually stopped watering and my coughing and sneezing subsided. The peppers were so pretty and now I have lots of gifts to give.

Have you had a disaster in your kitchen this summer? Tell me about it!

Cheers, Olivia

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Food, Garden, Kitchen

 

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Dan Dan Noodles via F&W

This recipe came to me via the Food and Wine email and I had perfect opportunity to try it. I have a friend that has recently moved to rural northwest Georgia from Tibet. We have been spending quite a bit of time together and she loves having me over to her house to cook meals and watch movies among other activities. She is trying her best to make food like that of her homeland, but it is hard to come by the same ingredients and she sometimes becomes frustrated. The day following a meal at her house, I got the F&W email and decided to try to give her a little taste of home, if only similar.

See the recipe here.

I did manage to find all of the ingredients in my local market, which was a relief. I took everything over there and commenced on making the meal. I asked her to prepare her mein noodles as she does at home and asked her if these ingredients looked familiar. They did and I could see a sparkle in her eye as I was bringing everything together.

She does not have a food processor or blender as of yet, so I chopped all of the ingredients by hand and used a whisk. It worked just fine. It was beautiful as well.

 

After using the skillet for the first cooking, I browned some pork chops in the peanut oil with just a little salt and pepper. Once they were nicely browned with the perfect crunch, they were set aside for a few minutes. Before serving the noodles, we put them in the skillet so that they could soak up all of the leftover oil and goodness. I thinly sliced the pork with her magnificent Chinese cleaver and placed over the top of the noodles. We poured the sauce mixture over the noodles and pork then topped with green onions cut on the bias and a squeeze of lime.

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This was one of the best dishes I’ve made in quite a while. My friend loved it. Not quite like home, but close enough. She loved it so much that she wanted to cook it a second time this week for her husband’s family. And so, we did. The second time, we used a blender, hoping to get the consistency described in the recipe. However, I must say, we were both disappointed with this method. The flavor was quite different and the second dish did not compare in beauty. We decided that next time, we would revert to the original, more time consuming method.

Let me know if you try it or have already.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Using the Coconut Oil

Ah, Pinterest, you have struck my fancy again. A few days ago, I was perusing the pictures and came across a post that I, myself, have posted about in the past. See that post here. 52 Uses for Coconut Oil started out as a list with more uses for coconut oil than I thought I could ever use. As it turns out, readers have added 70+ more uses to her list. Glancing at this made me realize that I bought a jar of it quite a few months ago and had not used it yet. I decided it was time. I will preface this list with the fact that I’m not really a coconut person.  It’s growing on me.  The taste and smell of the oil are faint, so I can handle it.

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Here’s what I’ve done with it this week:
1. Facial moisturizer. After I washed my face, before going to bed, I slathered it on. It soaked right in. The next morning, I looked like a new person. My skin was very hydrated and more plump.

2. Additive to coffee.
From what I can see, others are consuming it in lots of ways. I thought I would try it in my coffee. I drink mine with only half & half. I added just a little amount of the oil, about half of a teaspoon, give or take. It added just a hint of flavor.

3. Cat food additive.
During these dry months, it’s important to keep pets hydrated so they aren’t scratching dry skin. You can lead a cat to water, you know. I melted just a little of the oil in the microwave and drizzled it over their food. They didn’t seem to mind at all and ate all of it. (Of course, cats can be finicky, so easy does it on the amount.)

4. Leather Moisturizer. I’ve got a pair of ropers (cowboy boots) that I’ve had for over ten years.  The toes were a little scuffed up and I couldn’t put my hands on my shoe polish at the time. So, I rubbed a little c. oil on it and it fixed them right up.  Not the same as a polish and buff, but definitely hydrated them and brought them to a better state.

5. Lip moisturizer.  Works just as well as it did on my face.

6. Scalp conditioner. With the air being dry lately, My scalp around my forehead  has been the same. In the morning before my shower, I rubbed some on my scalp and let it soak in for about ten minutes, then just washed as usual.  Worked like a charm.

What have you been doing with it?

Cheers, Olivia

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in 3 Ways, Food, House, Pets

 

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July Harvest

When I was home at the cabin a couple of weeks ago, I saw lots of progress in the garden. The plants were bigger, the colors more vibrant, and the harvest was definitely underway. Okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries, eggplant, squash, mystery vines, plus lots of herbs and flowers abounded. Seeing the fruits of one’s labor is so rewarding, especially in a situation like this.  We get to enjoy my family’s work for a year at a time.  Dad’s tilling and smoothing of the ground with the tractor, the work of mom’s planting, the excitement of the seeds peeking out of the ground, the joy of seeing color for the first time as the plants grow, the harvest, the preservation, and the best part- eating it all!

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Here’s the picking from that day.

I’m excited to see the mystery vines getting bigger. These still look like pumpkins at about 6-7″ across. However, one of the other vines has one fruit that has turned a peachy blush color. Any ideas on these? They squaty tiny gourds have since disappeared, so I imagine that they grew into the pumpkins.

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The mystery white pumpkins.

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Oh wait! They’re getting darker! A peachy tone is developing on this vine.

We’ve had tons and tons of tomatoes come in. I took the ones that I picked that day and canned them. In all it was a quart, plus two pints. Not a huge amount, but I will be glad to have them in the fall come chili and vegetable soup time!

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I love the rays of sun coming through this tomato vine.

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Tommy Toes!

Having flowers in the middle of the vegetable garden is a nice addition.  Zinnias are a staple in our gardens and have been as long as I can remember.  They grow tall and proud and abundantly! It is one of the best flowers to keep handy for a quick bouquet.  With a mix of colors, you can go with warm colors or cool ones to compliment whatever setting you have.  They just make you smile!

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Fuchsia has taken over this corner of the garden! Pretty, pretty tones.

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My mom has always had zinnias in her gardens over the years.

Ah, my faithful garden friend, Willie.  Like many cats, he likes to know what you’re up to and get underfoot.  He’s always nosing around out here and loves to dig.  He often comes back to the cabin a much darker color than when he left.

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Here comes Willie through the okra.

The turkeys were one of my favorite sights this weekend.  I see them on the property a good bit, but not usually right near the cabin.  Friday morning, there were two of them right outside the front of the cabin about fifteen or twenty feet away, clucking softly and scratching around. They stayed close for about three hours, but kept out of sight for the most part.  On Saturday morning, there were two families that came by.  Below is the first one.  It was a pair with six chicks! the picture is not dynamic and I wish it was better, but you can get the idea.  About three minutes later a mama and three chicks (a little older) walked by quickly into the trees.

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Morning visitors! A pair and six babies.

Below are some jars of the tomatoes I picked.  I mixed the red and yellow together and think it turned out to be a good batch. I’ve also put up a ton of the cucumbers and will post separately about the experience with those.

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What are you growing this year? Show me or Tweet me a pic @LifeSkillsLivi

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in Food, Garden, Pets, Plants

 

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A Fresh Summer Orzo

With the impending heat wave coming through Atlanta last week, doing a lot of cooking and heating up my kitchen was not on the short list. So, in the pattern of my mother, Fran, I decided to prepare lots of hot weather food for the rest of the week. I started with some basics of pimento cheese and chicken salad. beyond that, I wanted something new, light, and fresh. Pasta salad came to mind, but I had no interest in the same old kind I always see. So, after some brainstorming, I came up with the following idea and recipe. Orzo with asparagus, sweet peas, and herbs. This turned out to be a great dish. It is light, crisp, and fresh. I’m very happy with the finished product. The procedure and recipe follow below.

Main ingredients: Orzo, asparagus, red onion, sweet peas, dill, mint.

This recipe is another perfect example of experimentation and throwing something together. I tried to keep track of the amounts as to share with you all. Note that this recipe makes a very large amount. I didn’t measure it as a whole, but it is around 25+ servings.

1 pound orzo pasta

half bunch of very thin asparagus

1 cup frozen sweet peas

2 Tbsp fresh chopped dill

2 Tbsp fresh chopped mint

1 small red onion, chopped. Should equal about ½ to ¾ of a cup.

Olive oil or similar.

1/3 cup White balsamic vinegar

salt & fresh cracked pepper

Boil the pasta to al dente and drain. Pour back into pot or bowl and add about half the oil. Stir, then pour onto a sheet tray to cool. The oil helps to prevent sticking. The orzo I used is a longer style and very delicate. Stir every few minutes to also prevent sticking.

Blanche the asparagus for just a minute. You want it to turn bright green, then take it out of the water and immediately plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Do the same for the peas.

Chop the asparagus in small pieces, about 1/2″. Ideally, all the ingredients should be about the same size cut.

Finely chop the onion. Rough chop the dill and mint. (I rolled the mint leaves and sliced as one would basil leaves.)

Once the pasta has cooled, put in a large bowl and add the aforementioned ingredients. Stir gently.

At this point, I added the oil and vinegar. It was basically to my taste. I wanted a slight bite of the vinegar and the texture of the oil. Go easy and add a little at a time. You don’t want to pucker from the vinegar or have a greasy film in your mouth from the oil. I used sea salt at the end, just a little bit, to taste. Also I love fresh cracked pepper here, but it is not necessary if you don’t want it.

If you are wondering why I used white balsamic, there are two reasons. One is that balsamic is reduced, sweeter, and lacks the strong bite of regular vinegar. The other reason is that the color is light to clear, so it does not affect the overall color of the dish.

**Please note: Vinegar will alter the color of your veggies. They will go from bright green to a yellow-green within a few hours. No need to worry if you are serving within a few hours. However, if you are making this dish in advance, add the vinegar a little while prior to serving.

Chopped dill and mint.

Very finely chopped onion.

Blanched asparagus in ice bath.

I chopped the asparagus in small pieces, about half an inch. Notice the solor is still bright green.

The finished product! Makes for a lovely presentation on this purple glass!

What are you making that is similar to this? Do you have variations of it? Feel free to share.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Food

 

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