Friday, February 26, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I'm in love with cast iron pans. I've never known why. I just always knew they seared meat, made fantastic Dutch pancakes, and stayed hot enough to brown most anything put in them. Then I read Alton Brown's Gear for Your Kitchen. He put the science behind my reasoning by declaring that cast iron is a great conductor of heat because of its mass. Example of this would be when slapping a cold steak into the pan, it doesn’t lose any of its heat and can start searing immediately. But a key to cooking in cast iron is having a well-seasoned pan. Well-seasoned meaning that it has a sheen to the metal and exhibits non-stick properties of its own. Cast iron doesn't come that way from the manufacturer and quite often used pieces are either spotted with rust or simply look dull, almost dry. Those pieces are not 'goners'...no, they just need re-seasoned. And with the help of Alton, I figured out why my seasoning process was good but wasn't great. I had been using oil rather than solid vegetable shortening. Anyway, on with the good stuff and how to properly season a cast iron pan so that you will love yours as much as I love mine.
How to Season a Piece of Cast Iron
Turn your oven on to 350 degrees. A new piece of cast iron should be washed in soapy water to remove any type of manufacturing residue and then air dried. An older piece being re-seasoned doesn’t need this step.
Put a lipped cookie sheet or disposable foil pan on the bottom rack of the oven.
Place the cast iron item on the middle rack and put a tablespoon of vegetable shortening in the bottom of the pan. Using vegetable shortening is key here…the difference between my not being able to effectively season a pan before and getting perfect results now.
Once the pan has warmed enough to melt the shortening, carefully remove it from the oven and rub the entire interior surface with the shortening…inside, outside, and handles. You can use a paper towel or a pastry brush.
Now it is time to put the cast iron piece back into the oven, but this time, it needs to be put in upside down so that the excess shortening does not puddle inside and create a gummy texture.
Bake the greased cast iron for an hour, and then turn off the over and allow it to cool down and finish curing in the oven.
After it is completely cool, give the entire piece a wipe down to remove any residual shortening.
The next time you use the pan, do not scrub it within an inch of its life with soap and scrubber, but instead pour in a little coarse salt and some oil. Give all of this a rub down with a paper towel, and then wipe clean before storing. All should be good for the next time over the flame or round in the oven.
If storage were not an issue, I'd have cast iron all over the kitchen. My small skillets, large skillet, deep skillet, and Dutch oven are wonderful as is my scone pan. But on my list, would be more small skillets for individual Dutch pancakes and a double burner cast iron griddle. Someday...
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I just learned a new vocabulary word...meme. Now I don't think I could summarize its true comprehensive meaning as it is used online in just a few words yet, but Wikipedia.org does a pretty good job:
At its most basic, an Internet meme is simply the propagation of a digital file or hyperlink from one person to others using methods available through the Internet (for example, email, blogs, social networking sites, instant messaging, etc). The content often consists of a saying or joke, a rumor, an altered or original image, a complete website, a video clip or animation, or an offbeat news story, among many other possibilities. In simple terms, an internet meme is an inside joke, that everyone on the internet is in on. An Internet meme may stay the same or may evolve over time, by chance or through commentary, imitations, and parody versions, or even by collecting news accounts about itself. Internet memes have a tendency to evolve and spread extremely quickly, sometimes going in and out of popularity in just days...
The term may refer to the content that spreads from user to user, the idea behind the content, or the phenomenon of its spread. Internet memes have been seen as a form of art. There exist websites that collect and popularize Internet memes as well as sites devoted to the spread of specific Internet memes...Regardless, memes appear to be fun journal-type prompts for bloggers in general to use to generate insightful content on their blogs. I tracked down this site today, The Dailey Meme, which I expect to more fully explore later, just to familiarize myself with internet memes. But perhaps the first meme I stumbled across was entitled "99 Things on the Wall" at the Little is Better blog. True to the spirit of memes, here is my list of 99 Things on the Wall with those which I have done in bold type:
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb (Definitely a goat kid!)
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching (From the beach in the San Juan Islands)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (If that includes a day care client, walking out on you in anger and never coming back!)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car (Not since I was 20!)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (Local church newsletter count?)
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
Looking back at my list now, I'm thinking I have a lot more living of life to do. So if you're reading this, give it a copy and paste to your own blog and highlight those that you've done in your lifetime. Leave me a comment with a link back to your blog and it will be fun to see how different we all are!
Monday, February 8, 2010
Well our two little bundles of joy are here. Our six week old miniature Australian shepherd pups made the trip home late, late Friday night with my husband and two oldest girls. And of course, they're cuter in real life than in the photos we received.
Short story, it would appear that having the two of them is a bonus. They play together, they have each other to sleep with in their crate, and there's just plain more puppiness to spread around in our family of six. Trouble is that you just want to sit around and watch them...and of course get nothing else done.
So far, potty accidents are at a minimum considering their age. They have no trouble following or coming to us when called. Their appetites are not the best, but I'm sure that will turn around after settling in and getting over any reactions from their vaccines. It would be nice seeing them to start drinking more water as I do worry a little about them staying hydrated, but the mother had all but finally weaned them before they left as it was. So I guess things are on track.
With the oldest daughter fighting the stomach flu and the next oldest coming down with some type of chest congestion after fighting a cold for a week, a lot of the puppy care has ended with me. But I'm sure glad our capable little seven-year-old is good at getting them outside for potty breaks and keeping an eye on them in general. She's been known to sit outside their crate just waiting for them to wake back up.
Since puppyhood is so fleeting, my goal is for a minimum of a picture per week to chronicle their metamorphosis into adult dogs. It's going to be a long time before we have any more puppies, so I definitely want to take advantage of the digital age we live in and capture as much of this stage of their life as possible. Here's the link to their Flckr stream.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Life is about to change for us...big time. We will be picking up two miniature Australian Shepherd puppies this weekend. It's been about nine years since our last puppy, a Brittany spaniel. The dog before that came to us as a one-year-old several years prior. And before that, my husband and I, or should I say my husband, brought home a yellow Labrador retriever puppy about a year into our marriage. So to say the least, it has been a long time since I've done any serious puppy raising. But I'm banking on one thing being different this time. These dogs have got to be respectful and well trained.
As much as I love to Google things and reserve books from the library, it really helps to get first hand recommendations about things that are truly important. The last time our farrier was here to trim our horse's hooves, I asked him what his go-to resource was for dog training. He has a pit bull mix that is the most well adjusted, well behaved dog you could ask for. His comment was, "Cesar Millan. Get his books. Watch his shows. This man has it figured out." So off I went to see who Cesar was.
My mother knew about him. She apparently watches his Dog Whisperer show on National Geographic TV. There are also full length videos of his past shows which you can watch online. The library is full of his books and DVD series. He has his own website and blog at CesarsWay.com. Good enough recommendation for me.
Cesar's approach is that there is a leader in every pack, and that leader had better be you...not your dog. Not an aggressive leader or one who is cruel. But someone who is confident that they are in charge and can recognize that no matter how cute your puppy is, he needs to be told what to do by someone he can respect and follow. The concepts he lays out seem to be solid, so that is the way we plan on proceeding. An interesting side note is that his basic premise applies to raising children as well. There could be some good lessons learned there as well I suppose.
I'm sure this puppy training will be fodder for many posts in the future, and hopefully we don't end up as a candidate for Cesar's dog rehabilitation program. We've had too many unruly, undisciplined dogs in the past, and I'm not about to slack off this time. May the pack leader rule!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Here's a question for you...do you purchase everyday, discount art supplies for your children or seek out quality items? Crayons for example, do you give any thought to them? Grab whichever is cheapest off the rack? That would have been me until I read an interesting article years back about a family that gave their child real, working art materials to use once they realized the amount of satisfaction and creativity the child expressed when they were able to produce projects with quality art supplies. Since then I've tried to obtain 'real' supplies for my children...within reason of course...and have been surprised at how they love the feel of crayons that go down smoothly, colored pencils that do not produce thin, scratchy lines, and creamy paints that cover well and just plain feel good underneath your brush.
Here's a few of our current favorites:
We had relegated crayons to the maybe-again-sometime-down-the-time project area because my youngest wasn't interested in what she could produce with them. All until our neighbor purchased a small set of these crayons for her last Christmas. Until you actually use a quality crayon, you have no idea that there is even a difference. They produce thick color on the page, blend well with the other color already put down, and have vibrant colors. She decided not only to draw with them, but produce full pages of color as they were so inviting to use. I noticed on Stockmar's site they have some product information sheets that I plan to check out with additional creative uses of their crayons.
Prismacolor Colored Pencils
I have been a fan of these since my earliest days homeschooling. I believe Timberdoodle Co. Homeschool Curriculum exposed me to them. They too put down a smooth, creamy color that can be blended and used to completely fill areas. No thin, pale color here. They are a bit spendy, but taken care of properly, our box has lasted a decade or more. It's now time to purchase another, and now that Michael's has put them as a 40% off item, I'm out to get another set. They too have some tips and tricks for their colored pencils, although they are geared towards the older student or parent who could then relay the information to your child in a manner useful to them.
There are no better tempura paints around. Once again, the key seems to be color that goes down thick enough to actually produce vibrant colors. The paint is so creamy and smooth underneath your brush, you just want to keep on painting. I don't recall having a staining problem with clothes on younger painters as we've been out of that real messy stage for awhile, but precaution is probably advised. I believe these BioColor paints are produced and sold only by Discount School Supply but are well worth the cost of paying shipping and handling versus purchasing something local. The BioColor paints are so popular they have a link on their site for watching videos and downloading activities that can extend the normal use of their paints.
So the next time you head out to pick up craft supplies for your children, think about what you're buying. If it doesn't feel good in their hands or look good on the paper, irregardless of their abilities, you won't be giving them a chance to keep going with their project and expand their creativity. Do you have a favorite art supply that has made a difference in your children's love for art? If so, please share. We just might need to adopt another new favorite.