Thursday, July 26, 2012

Brother, can you spare some time?

Time - I don't know a single person who would tell me they have just plain too much time on their hands.  Everyone has way too much to do and not enough hours in the day.

I've been spending my "free" time working on a quilt - a special wall-hanging type quilt for me.  Not all projects I work on are intended to remain here with me forever.  But this one is.  It's my first serious attempt at making an applique quilt and the blocks were collected on our recent (cruise) trip to Alaska (part of the 2012 Alaskan Shop Hop).  The blocks are truly adorable and the quilt is titled "The Alaskan Adventures of Kuspuk Kate and Parka Pete" - the Alaska version of Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Sam.

Oddly enough, this quilt has brought me closer to my mom than probably ever before.  Because no matter so slow I try to go, how much care I take in cutting/trimming or how many times I try to read the instructions BEFORE sitting down to sew, I seem to miss something each time...bringing me to my next rule for life:

It takes you THREE times as long to do something the WRONG way as it does to just do it the RIGHT way in the first place.  ~Eleanor Klar (aka my mother)

I don't even remember the first time she told me this.  I was probably really small and no doubt had already mastered rolling my eyes.  But I know that I heard it plenty whenever she tried to teach me sewing.  Patience was not something that came easy to me (still doesn't actually).  I was more anxious to move to the next task or see the finished project that I was interested in taking the necessary time to do things correctly.  This usually meant mom had to rip out seams for me because she just knew that left on my own, I would just toss the mistake aside creating a pile of "UFOs" (UnFinished Objects).  She was intent on forcing me to complete what I had started.  (Though I've subsequently recognized that she saw in me a younger version of herself - she wasn't too keen on finishing things either!)

I wasn't too sure of her math but as she ripped she explained: 
  • First, you do it. 
  • Second, you undo it. 
  • Third, you redo it.
Takes a lot less time if you just learn to do it right the first time.

I imagine that other parents have taught this same lesson as well... maybe your dad told you to "always measure twice, cut once" or "look BEFORE you leap"  or "check both ways BEFORE you cross the street."  Regardless, the message is always the same - slow down, think it thru AND then act.

I'm determined that this quilting project will be different - I'm trying to slow down and do things correctly...the first time.  (And I'm going to FINISH it but that's a lesson for another day!)

And when I screw up, I rip it out myself now. 

And I hear my mom. 

And I try not to roll my eyes!

~later, tw

Monday, July 23, 2012

Great Expectations!

Women up front, please!
My niece (Tessa) and her hubby (Sean) are expecting their first baby next month (of the "pink" persuasion which will be a change after our four grandsons!)  Both of my sisters (hubbys in tow) came for our marathon sewing session this summer, giving us the opportunity to assemble friends and family to throw an impromptu baby shower/BBQ (any occasion qualifies for BBQ status around here - especially in the summer!)

Margo hiding in the presents!

After chowing down, the adults settled in to watch the show (women oohing and ahhing while the guys were wondering if there wasn't a game on a tv in another room...any other room...preferably another house...or even a bar!) 

Tessa, you're supposed to do it this way!

While Jax helps with the card, Brinley picks the next present to open.

Jax performed admirably as "present delivery guy" and even Brinley (visiting from Colorado) lent a supervisory eye to the proceedings. 

This looks like something for me!
Shay wanted to get into the festivities (or was it just the wrappings?) as well...

Captured at last!

A onesie for every month!
It was a fun party but we really missed our family emcee (and sometimes stand-up comedienne, Sarah, who is by far the best at pulling together a party with games and activities).

Congrats to Tessa and Sean.  We're looking forward to meeting your new little one next month!

~later, Auntie tw

Friday, July 20, 2012


We've recently returned from an Alaskan cruise with my sister (Dona) and her hubby (Roger).  Can't really blame it on Gerry this time (not having photos) since he's actually got them done and all ready for me to access.  Nope - this time the cause is a major computer crash (the dreaded blue screen of death).  So while I'm switching things around to the new computer, I'll share the one photo I have access to:

Denali (or as I like to call it "Denada") - As seen by the Weilers every single time they've been in Alaska.

Nothing wrong with your computer..."this space left intentionally blank" because that's as much of the "alleged" mountain we've ever seen.  We hear all kinds of excuses - in Anchorage?  Too far.  In Denali National Park?  Too close.  Cloudy day?  Fat chance!  Clear day?  Nope, can't see it then either.  To be fair, I think there are a lot of fairly tall mountains in Alaska so maybe it's just hard to differentiate between them. 

Here's the thing Alaska - you got LOTS of great stuff to crow about!  There's gorgeous glaciers, mountains, waterfalls and wildlife galore (moose, bears...really BIG bears, caribou).  You've got adorable coastal villages like Ketchikan, Scagway and Sitka.  There's over 150 islands in your archipelago.  You're even home to Santa who lives at the North Pole!  You are, after all, the Land of the Midnight Sun, the Last Frontier!  You are the biggest state in the Union by far - so big that if Alaska were cut in half, Texas (currently #2) would drop to #3!  And your mosquitos are the size of (large) hummingbirds (okay, well maybe that's not something you want to brag about)!

So, I'm thinking that since you have so much else to be proud about, maybe we could drop all this nonsense about having the tallest mountain in North America.  I mean, it can't really count, if it can't be seen!  And if you want to see a really big mountain, I invite you to come to Washington.  Mt. Rainier is frequently visible in all its glory.  (We don't hide our mountains in this state!)

~later, tw

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Veggie Drawer - Pt. I

Our box of veggies arrives on Thursday morning so to make sure I'll have room for the new goodies, I have to make sure we've used all the veggies from the previous week.  (Occasionally, this actually does happen.  One week we were out of veggies by Monday!)

I have two "go to" meals guaranteed to a) please the hubby and son; and b) use up most anything I find in the veggie drawer.

Use Up #1 - Stir Fry

It's quick, it's easy and no matter how busy my day has been, no matter if I've remembered to set out a protein to include (a chicken breast, a pork chop, a steak) I can always pull this meal together in roughly 30 minutes.

  • Step 1 - Rice.  I don't generally go for those "single use" gadgets.  Who's got the room?  But my rice cooker is one of my prized possessions.  Not "the house is on fire and I can only save one thing" kind of deal because the fact is, these things are pretty darn cheap.  Yes, you can buy the jumbotron "I'm thinking of opening an Asian restaurant" or "I'd really like to be able to steam an entire chicken" type deals at Costco, but seriously, I bet you can pick one of these up for less than $10 at Bed, Bath & Beyond (though you might need a coupon for that - and why would anyone buy anything there WITHOUT a coupon?). 
  • Step 2 - Veggies.  I have a large glass bowl and it holds the perfect amount of vegetables that will fit in my fry pan.  I set out my cutting board, my large knife and head to the VD (veggie drawer) to pull out anything I find there.  I like to go for color, if it's available (carrots, red pepper, etc.) but if green's all I got, greens is what we eat.  Anything goes - especially anything "old or tired," "dribs and drabs" (those little bits of things that didn't get used in last week's meals), anything I didn't find another use for.  I also pull out containers of any leftover vegetables from previous dinners.  It all works (you just might need to add it in a different order since it's already cooked).  Seriously - the list of what won't work is WAY SHORTER than what will.  We've certainly got our favorite veggies (carrots, peppers, onions, celery, baby bok choy, broccoli, green onions & snap peas) but I've used green or red cabbage (just shred it), bagged coleslaw mix (BEFORE it becomes coleslaw!), mushrooms, corn (leftover - kernels removed from cob) or any leafy greens (kale, spinach, chard).
  • Step 3 - Protein.  Not exactly necessary, you can make this meal totally vegetarian if you choose.  We like protein so I'll either find something "new" from the freezer (chicken breast, pork chop, beef steak) or "recycled" (leftover BBQ chicken or flank steak is great!) or you can stray entirely off the reservation (try a kielbasa - just slice it up thinly).  If you've forgotten to plan ahead and set something out, no worries.  The meat will actually slice easier if it's frozen and since you'll be slicing it thinly, it will cook just fine.  We're not big on tofu around here, but I know others are and they tell me it's great too.
  • Step 4 - Sauce.  We used to have on hand a large bottle of Yoshida's Teriyaki sauce but since I'm trying to wean us off of chemical-ladened food (thank you Jenny!), I'm always on the look out for a good stir fry sauce recipe.  I think I've finally honed in on one that is our favorite (it's a variation of one I found at - that is an amazing site!  Be sure to read at least some of the reviews because you'll get some great ideas/tips there as well!)
Terri's Stir Fry Sauce Recipe
  • 1 packet chicken or beef broth (see previous posting or you can use a bouillon cube or granules but you'll be adding quite a bit of salt here)
  • 1 cup hot water (or if you're adding canned fruit, use the drained juice instead.  If you're using "stock in a box" then just use 1 cup instead).
  • 2 Tbls cornstarch
  • 1/3 Cup Tamari sauce (I like this instead of soy because it's both sweeter and less salty)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (~1 clove)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger*
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Step 5 - Putting it all together.
  • I start the rice cooking first (because it's going to take the longest).
  • Veggie prep:  Anything raw is going in my "veggie bowl" and the leftover (previously cooked veggies) are going to be set aside.  Since we like to cook together, Gerry is in charge of the "protein prep" (which just amounts to thinly slicing the meat).
  • Once the raw veggies are ready, I heat up my REALLY LARGE frying pan (I suppose I could use a wok but I've got a great pan that works just fine).  I get it "screaming hot" (as Rachael would say) and add just a bit of canola (1 or at most 2 tsp) to give the veggies someplace to start.  (I tried just using the non-stick pan but at this heat it leaves a residue that requires a bit of scrubbing and since I'm not the one usually doing the final dishes of the night, I like to keep my dishwasher happy!)  Then I dump the veggies from the bowl into the pan, spread them out and (this is important) LEAVE THEM ALONE for 2-3 minutes before stirring.  I like them to develop a bit of color (carmelize, if you will) and this can't happen unless they get a chance to maintain some extended direct contact with the heat.  Truly - resist the urge to keep stirring them (easier said than done I know!)
  • While the veggies are cooking, I mix up the sauce. 
  • Once veggies are done, toss any "leftover" veggies into the bowl first (so they will be at the bottom and get warmed up) and then remove veggies from frying pan into this bowl as well.
  • Let the pan come back up to temp and add just a little more canola oil.  If I'm using raw meat, add it in a single layer and again LEAVE IT ALONE for 2-3 minutes before flipping it over to cook the other side.  (Otherwise, the meat will essentially "poach" giving you a bit more liquid to deal with.  If this happens, no worries.  Just add a bit more cornstarch to your sauce mix.)
  • I generally reduce the heat a bit now (everything should be cooked).  If you're using leftover meat, this is where it would get added.  Also, we like cashews so I generally (if I remember) toss in a handful here (peanuts would also work).
  • Time to add the sauce and let it thicken a bit (should take ~2 minutes) and then re-introduce the veggies, toss it all together and serve (we like it over crunchy noodles and rice).

Two additional tips:

  1. I thought I was "mixing things up" by occasionally switching out the white rice with brown rice, but my daughter Jenny taught me that this is also great over pasta.  (I especially like that our Costco now has whole wheat spaghetti - looks a bit like yakisoba noodles.)
  2. *Ginger - I now buy the 3 lb. bag of ginger at our local restaurant supply store (ours is called Cash & Carry but you probably have something similar).  I bring it home and trim the entire bag (I could do the "scrape it with the back of a spoon" treatment but it takes too long for me.  I just square it up with my knife.)  Then I pop it into a ziploc and toss it in the freezer.  Not only does this mean that I have ginger on hand all the time (I don't know what the freezer-life is since we've never had it around long enough to figure that out), but also freezing it means that it is MUCH EASIER to grate.
Well since this is Wednesday, I'm off to the freezer to see what's our protein for tonight!

~later, tw

Monday, July 9, 2012

Food on the Go!

We've just returned from a wonderful (and well-deserved!) Alaskan cruise with my sister and her husband.  Hopefully Gerry will provide me with photos so I can share some of the fun, but in the meantime let me tell you about a fun restaurant in Anchorage!

The ship arrived in Whittier on Saturday morning (acutally it docked around midnight Friday night - just before I was heading to bed) and we were rather summarily dismissed around 10 am.  Our luggage (all 8 pieces - it was a great way to literally "ship" Dona's quilts to Alaska!) had already been transported by truck to Anchorage and now it was our turn.  Though only 40 miles between Whittier and Anchorage it takes over 1 1/2 hours because of the one-way 2 1/2 mile tunnel (traffic goes west on the hour and east on the 1/2 hour).

After unloading luggage and a quick trip to Eagle River (to pick up more quilt blocks, of course!), we checked into our hotel and I proceeded to "crash" until dinner time.  (Gerry decided to use his time to read/answer some of his 999+ emails that had accumulated the previous week.)

Dinner with Dona and Roger and Beth and Matt was at:

This is a way cool place!  We had experienced dim sum at Chinatown in Seattle but this was dim sum "kicked up a notch" - with a revolving conveyor belt of small plates.

Since we were the "rookies" we were seated right next to the  belt so we could make selections.  Each item had a small card go before that described what the next item would be.  Occasionally (just to throw us off) there would be a random plate of dessert or even a plate with a Coke (or other not so easily identified drink).  If you weren't sure what was on a plate, additional descriptions could be found on the backside of the menu.  A couple of people worked inside the belt to make sure that items were replaced as selections were made.  Each plate had a colored border indicating the price for that particular item (ranging from $2 - $5 each).  At the end of the evening, the waitress would tally up your stack of plates in order to provide you with your bill.

The food was delicious and the "floor show" quite entertaining!

~later, tw

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday to Us!

Yesterday whilst traveling by bus, our driver, an Alaskan, shared with us some history and folklore of his state.  He mentioned that there is a small part of the Aleutian Islands that is the only U.S. real estate ever to have been occupied by foreign nationals.

There happened to be a British couple with us and the husband, under his breath, "hmpf...seems that WE once occupied your country too."

I wanted to respond along the lines of "yeah, until we opened a serious can of whoop a** on you" but figured that he was going to be spending today surrounded by people celebrating his loss and thought better of it.

I should have referred him to Colin Powell's book:  "Get mad, then get over it!" (because personally I think holding a grudge for 230+ years - not to mention how many generations? - is really taking things a bit too personally!)

Have a Happy 4th of July!

~later, tw