Amateur Photography

 

As I have said before I love taking pictures and I love to travel, and I especially love to take photos of places I travel to visit. On one European trip, I discovered this really great capability of my little (inexpensive) digital camera. With a little practice I am learning to take panoramic photos! The operative word here is practice. It sounds easy: Just take three photos in succession at the same level while moving the camera to the right with each succeeding photo. Easy right?

 

Hmmm. not quite right

Hmmm. not quite right

Well at least it sounds easy. So, I am practicing when I find an inviting panorama. I think I am getting better. Here is a panorama I took one night as we were leaving Funchal, Madeira:

Night lights in Funchal

Night lights in Funchal

It is the last view we had as we left the Island of Madeira just off of Portugal, before we sailed for Florida. Every time I look at it, I want to go back! Click on the photo if you want to see it more clearly. I took it as we were moving through the harbor and it still looks pretty continuous. Guess I might be getting the hang of it.

Posted in Do It Yourself, Europe, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Youngest Residents in our Seniors’ Community

In many parts of the country Sandhill cranes are migratory. But not in our community! They are here to stay… and stay… and raise their babies! We have a few families that reside here all year and every spring they raise one, or more usually, two really adorable babies. Here a quick picture I shot yesterday:

 

Sandhill Crane family

Sandhill Crane family

Posted in Animals, Florida, Photos | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Making Fairy Dust

My sixteen year old grandson likes to tease me that I am a witch. My friends here in Florida think I am that strange friend that makes weird stuff in her kitchen. I am really just a preserver who likes to know where her food is coming from. I think it is best to use as much of a food as possible. My humble opinion is that many of the ailments we are discovering in our population, especially the children, may be stemming from the fact that the food supply is becoming more and more refined and selective.

Our grandparents frugally used as much of a food as possible. Animals were processed and eaten snout to tail and usually the more perishable parts, like the liver, were eaten first. Now only the more appealing, select parts of an animal are offered up, wrapped in plastic and on a Styrofoam tray in our markets. My grandchildren probably have never seen, much less tasted, many animal parts. (Although, if they have spent much time with Grandma, they do get the opportunity to try out those “parts” that we delight in, like beef tongue.)

I hold the same belief about vegetables. Any gardener cringes at wasting any eatable part of something they have planted and nurtured to maturity. Wasted time and effort? Not a chance! A freshly pulled beet offers more than just a root to be savored. Look at those lush leaves at the top! There is an entirely different opportunity in the kitchen; two dishes from one plant. When beets are to be found in a supermarket they usually have but a few inches of the top’s stems if any at all.

All of this leads me to making tomato powder, or Fairy Dust as I call it (I’m a witch, remember?) When my supply of home canned tomato sauce begins to diminish, I buy a case of organic tomatoes (Why buy? Because I still haven’t got the hang of successfully growing tomatoes in Florida). I grind the tomatoes through an attachment to my Kitchen Aid mixer, which strains out the skins and seeds. Maybe in another post I will tell you how I make the tomato sauce but today I want to tell you about those skins and seeds. They could be composted, or even worse thrown away! No, not in my kitchen! They are food!

Here is what I am talking about:

001

Tomato skins and seeds

I dehydrate this stuff until it is crispy. I can even pick it up:

Dry enough to pick up

Dry enough to pick up

 

I stuff the dried material into a pint canning jar that I use exclusively with my blender.

Into the jar

Into the jar

Remarkably, the opening of the jar is an exact fit for the blade components of my blender.

It fits

It fits

 

I invert the jar and blade and blend away until I produce a fairly fine powder. I sift out any large pieces and grind them up too.

006

Grinding the tomato skins

Then I put the powder into a bottle for storage.

Fairy dust aka tomato dust

Fairy dust aka tomato dust

This lovely powder is a great addition to my kitchen. It makes a wonderful addition to soup, sprinkled over a salad for a “wow” factor, and many other uses. I can add some boiling water to a tablespoon of it to make tomato paste. Imagine, on demand tomato paste that lasts indefinitely on my pantry shelf! And as a nod to the whimsy I love, I call it my Fairy Dust. (Want to know what my Pixie Dust is? Mushrooms that I rescued from the markdown bin at the store, dehydrated, and ground.)

As my Mom always said: “Waste not, want not.”  Do you have a creative way to use a food that might be wasted otherwise?

Posted in Cooking, Cooking Lesson, Do It Yourself, Food, Food Preservation, Photos | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

1985 Called…

And demanded my stove back. Yes, that was the actual Manufacturer’s date on the stove in our home. The burners had two temperatures HIGH and OFF. The oven had one temperature: Burned. I looked online for repair parts and discovered that unless I wanted to pay a LOT of money for specialty repair parts, I was out of luck. And yet, I had managed to figure out a way to use my canner on it and to cook on it after a fashion (with a lot of attention). Here’s a photo:

021

Last week Mr. M discovered a note in our community laundry room  advertising a stove. We investigated and found a neighbor about a mile away selling his one year old smooth top stove. He had recently moved into a new home and had an extra stove. The price was very reasonable so we bought it and brought it home in the back of our Hyundai Santa Fe.

Prior to bringing it home we moved the old stove out and donated it. When we moved it we discovered why we were having so much trouble with our floor sliding apart. It is a constant problem. The floor is obviously a newer addition but it just wouldn’t stay put. Here is why:

surprise!

I have no idea why the previous owner cut the flooring like this. I don’t want to buy additional flooring to fix this, so I came up with a fix. First I used some shims for the smaller gap and to “frame” the outlet box:

surprise!

Then I found a couple of pieces of trim the previous owners left behind and cut them to fit with my pruners:

Ready

Taaadaaa! No more sliding floor!

We put in the new stove and I cooked our first meal on it:

OOooooOOO, New!

OOooooOOO, New!

Isn’t it beautiful? And I used my pressure cooker to prepare our corned beef dinner. It was fantastic. I could bring the pot to pressure and turn the heat down and the burner would go on and off to maintain the right temperature. Wonderful!

There is just one small problem: (Isn’t there always??)

UHH OHH!

UHH OHH!

Nothing I can’t live with!

Posted in Do It Yourself, home repair | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

One of the things we do in Florida

Veranda

Ten years ago I couldn’t convince Mr. M to take a cruise. He was adamant that cruising was stupid and something he would NOT do. I, on the other hand , had taken a wonderful cruise in the mid-seventies with my Mom and sister-in-law. For over 30 years, I tried to convince him to take a cruise with me.

While we were in Mexico, I decided to force the issue. I traded a bunch of timeshare points for a one week cruise of the Eastern Caribbean. I told Mr. M, that I loved him and I wanted him to go on the cruise with me, but if he refused I would just go without him. Grudgingly, he decided to go; after all it was already paid for, he said.

Well, it seems that I have created a “Cruise Monster”! He absolutely loves cruising. In fact, he is now our official cruise planner. He researches cruises online and makes the reservations. Then he looks for the best cabin deal and keeps upgrading until we have to make the final payment. (Between you and me, I think that one of the reasons we moved to Florida just might be to make cruising more accessible.) He is such a cruise addict that on a 32 day cruise around South America, he spent some of his time at sea, “cruising” the internet for future cruises.

Since that first cruise, Mr. M and I have become global travelers (as opposed to tourists). We have learned to pack minimally, and what we are interested in for each country we visit (or how to avoid the Tourist Traps). We don’t buy many things in our travels, but I do buy salt and cheese. I have quite a collection of international salts. I use some of each but I keep a small portion as my souvenir. The cheese? Have I told you that my favorite food is cheese yet??

Posted in Florida, Photos, Travel | Tagged , , ,

She Fell Off The Edge

I haven’t posted here for almost two years (Really? That long?). It is like I fell off off the edge of the earth. I stopped posting because of a personal catastrophe that caused Mr. M and I to unexpectedly move from our happy home in Mexico. Not only did we have to move but, we had to do it in only 2 days! Needless to say we had to leave nearly everything behind. We could only take what we could cram into a pick-up (my son-in-law’s) and a rented open trailer.  We gave everything else to friends, and deserving groups there, including a homeschooling group and a boy’s orphanage (they especially loved the freezer full of food).

We returned to the US and stayed for a while with our younger daughter and her family until we could figure our what to do next. While we were there we were blessed with the birth of our great-grandson. As they say God moves in mysterious ways: if we were still in Mexico, I would not have been there when my grand-daughter’s water broke. I was fortunate enough to be the first to know that Carson was on his way! (Besides his Mom, of course) He is a great joy in our lives!

Eventually, we decided to stay in the US and find a place to call our own. We are retirees on a fixed income so we thought that owning our own home again was out of the question. We did know that we wanted to live in a moderate weather area since we were native southern Californians. Unfortunately, that desire eliminated living near our two daughters who live in Texas and Louisiana. Hmmmmm, maybe Florida, where our son and his family live? We looked online for an apartment to rent and somehow found some mobile homes for sale.

We found a home for sale in a retiree park not even 150 miles from our son’s home on the east coast of Florida, and negotiated a price that we could manage in cash. The affordable monthly space rent not only covers lawn care, trash and recycling, but also allows free access to our two pools, tennis courts, shuffleboard courts, bocci courts, a nine-hole golf course and our recreation center.

We now have a whole new life. Although we are in a new state and about as far from our home in Mexico as we can be, I believe that happiness and a feeling of home comes from within. We are making new friends, learning new activities (Bocci, anyone?), learning to garden in a new environment, and having a lot of fun. We miss our home and friends in Baja but are strong enough to overcome a terrible situation to find a new life. I hope to start posting about what were are doing in the new chapter in this ongoing saga we call life.

Want to know what life is like for repatriates in Florida? Come back.

Posted in Florida, Random Rant | Tagged | Leave a comment

Potatoes and Cheese

Mr. M has a fondness for Potatoes Au Gratin, or Potatoes and Cheese. Usually, I have served him the kind that comes in a box with dried potato slices and powdered cheese. We all know how healthy that stuff is! I have been afraid of making this particular dish. I don’t quite know why.

But I wanted to rise to the occasion for the Dark Days Challenge. A meal in a single dish. I thought I can do this! And make it SOLE (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical)! Well, maybe SOLEish.

I had potatoes, the kind that are yellow inside. Not the biggest and I probably won’t be trying to grow potatoes in the future; despite my Irish Heritage, I am not the best potato grower. I do grow some great sweet potatoes (yams?) though. More about those later.

I have lovely homegrown leeks,onions,and garlic.

I don’t have any kind of cream though, just yogurt, plain and nonfat. As I mentioned in my last post, I have local butter  and cheese. Cheese! It is not the first food one thinks of when thinking of Mexico, but the variety of local cheeses is amazing! There is everything from dry grating cheese similar to Parmesan, crumbly cheese, stringy cheese, soft cheeses, cheeses  that melt beautifully (especially in chiles rellenos!), so many different types of cheese. My choices for this dish are a crumbly cheese and an aged, local gouda-style cheese.

The only addition to this dish that is not really local are the mushrooms. They are Monterey Mushrooms  and their source is a bit north  of my 150 mile limit, but a family owned business with good stewardship practices, so I consider them to be ethical mushrooms. Ethical mushrooms? Okay, from an ethical business.

Now, like I said, I haven’t made this without a boxed mix before. So I sort of winged it.

Let’s see:

potatoes: check,

leeks: check

mushrooms: check

garlic: check

cheese: check,

something creamy: check

butter: check

Looks okay to me!

I sliced the leek, mushrooms, garlic and potatoes.  I melted about 2 tablespoons of butter and sauteed the leeks until they wilted. I added the garlic and mushrooms and sauteed them for a couple of minutes. I mixed the yogurt (about a cup and a half) with the crumbly cheese (its sort of like feta), and some sea salt and black pepper. I layered the thinly sliced potatoes with the leek mixture, then the yogurt mixture and the Gouda-like, shredded cheese. In that order. When I came to the last layer, I saved the cheese to add later. I covered the casserole with foil and baked it at 325 for about an hour. I removed the foil and added the rest of the shredded cheese and baked it for about a half hour more.

About five minutes after I removed the foil Mr.M started sniffing the air, followed shortly by, “How long until dinner?”. It smelled that good!

He was so eager to try it that I didn’t let  it sit for a while after removing it from the oven. It probably would have looked better if I had. The taste? As great as it smelled. In fact, one of the last things Mr. M said at bedtime was, “There were leftovers, right?”.

Posted in Cooking, Dark Days Challenge, Mexico | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments