Florida Freeze!

B2784127-FB09-40F5-8357-06B32E70DA12This morning I wake up to freezing cold! It’s 22 degrees here! You may not think thats a big deal but this is Florida! BRRR! It’s rare that I want to stay inside but after I feed all the animals I am staying inside today. We are kinda spoiled here in Florida. Most of the year we are outside. Even on super hot summers you can usually enjoy the early mornings or evenings. The problem here is we are not used to this kind of cold! Non of us, people, plants, animals. The last few winters here have been pretty mild and all the plants have been thriving. So this cold weather causes a whole lot of extra work, blanketing horses, covering plants, turning on hoses, so the pipes don’t break, uhg. And getting all bundled up to go outside with jackets, and gloves, and scarves, and hats, and boots, makes me feel claustrophobic, like I’m in a straight jacket or something! And then after all that, the next day it can be like 80 degrees out! So you never actually have the time to get used to it. The cold is usually short lived so you have to go and uncover everything plants, animals, etc. Everything turns brown and ugly and they say not to cut back the brown stuff because it can protect the plants the next time a freeze blows through. So now you get to enjoy all the ghastly dead looking plants in your yard until spring!

I’m really not complaining I embrace it all! It is actually quite refreshing as long as you don’t have to stay out in it too long. The dogs love it, they are running around the yard like maniacs, this is Lulu’s first winter. The horses are spunky and spry, snorting and prancing. The frost on the ground looks beautiful shimmering in the morning sun. I am very lucky to be able to stay in my warm cozy house, today I think I will try a new recipe,  Winter Vegetable Soup with Turkish Meatballs*! Sounds delicious and nutritious on this cold winters day.

I’m sure, even with my best efforts, I will lose some plants to the cold. Some trees are too big to cover, sometimes a cover blows off in the middle of the night, sometimes you forget that one little plant hiding in the corner. Nature is amazing and tenacious! I am already catching ” Spring Fever”! I can’t wait to see what pops back up this spring!

This recipe*is from Eating Well magazine, I can’t wait to try it!

 

 

Soups On!

Today I am having trouble sitting here and writing. It is beautiful outside and the weather is calling me. I have had a cold for a couple of days so I am trying to take it easy and give myself a chance to recuperate. I haven’t had a head cold in years and this is really annoying! I have been on a roll, eating healthy, and exercising. Yoga everyday which is definitely helping the mobility in my shoulder. As I said before, I have been taking back some control in my life and getting on with it! I was really feeling wonderful and then this…a head cold! Runny nose, watery eyes, headache, sneezing, sniffling, whining. Yes whining! Why now when I have so much to do? Funny. Is there ever really a good time to have a cold?  All I can say is this needs to hurry up and get on outta here so I can get back to my plans!

This is the time of year for soup. I love soup. It is so warm and comforting. I am going to make a huge pot of French onion soup, one of my favorites. And everyone knows a good hot bowl of soup is good for what ails ya! I just found a recipe that uses five different kinds of onions, scallions, shallots, yellow, red, and leeks. I make my soup with a beef broth and a little pinch of cloves. I remember one time, when I had a cold, I made this soup and when I was chopping all the onions my eyes started watering, my nose started running, loosening up all the congestion in my head. Not a pretty sight but afterwards my cold was gone! Onions have many healing properties. I am hoping this works again! Ta ta for now I have to go get chopping!

Recipe

1 lb mixed onions

¼ cup butter

2 pints beef stock

2 twigs of fennel

1 clove

salt and pepper

1 tsp sugar

provolone for topping

splash of brandy

Slice onions, cook in butter in a large cast iron pan until transparent. Bring stock to boil and pour over the onions. Add fennel, clove and seasoning. Lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Carmelize sugar in a long handled spoon by holding it over heat until it melts and turns a lovely golden brown, stir into soup. Remove soup from heat. Add brandy. Serve with a nice toasty french bread. If you have oven safe crocks, put the toasted slice of bread in the bowl, ladle in soup, then put a slice of provolone cheese on top. Put the bowls on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler for just a few minutes until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. To your good health, enjoy!!!

 

Relax

Today is a good day. I am happy to say I am feeling really good in a kinda relaxed familiar way. I have been very busy to say the least. I think I may have been over compensating for what I perceived as lost time during the active phase of my illness. I felt kind of “out of control” wanting to get back to “normal” and do all the things I hadn’t been doing for the last 8 months. I have a bad habit of forcing things, making stuff happen! But sometimes, as I am learning, you just have to let things run their course. So in the last few weeks I have been going like crazy, doing this and that. Go, go, go! The puppy keeps me busy, in, out, in, out, play, play, play!  Jerry left for Puerto Rico, so everything is my responsibility, yikes! I have started painting again, with many more cool projects piling up. I have been yard saleing. I have been playing my cello, even jammed with some friends! I have been cleaning and organizing my house and getting back into doing some much needed yard work. It has been crazy steamy hot here, of course it is summertime in Florida! I have been walking and doing Tai Chi. Promoting my artwork again. I have been eating healthy and taking care of myself. Researching all kinds of stuff. Back to doing farm chores and horses. Wow!

Don’t get me wrong I am thoroughly enjoying myself! I oftentimes look back and think I couldn’t have done this six months ago. Just walking to the barn was all I could muster! I am beginning to recognize myself again. I feel more like the old familiar me! My strength is coming back, my hair is coming back, I think it’s actually thicker than it was before! I now have eyebrows and lashes! I have researched, got approval from my doctor, and have started taking a supplement called Turkey Tail Mushroom. It has had some very promising results in supporting the immune system in post chemo patients. I am still dealing with some side effects like this crazy burning in my thighs if I stand up for too long and hot flashes and night sweats from the hormone therapy. Bone and muscle aches and pains, some mornings I’m not sure if I can get out of bed! But these things are getting better and I can live with them.  And I am finding that the better I take care of myself, eating clean and gentle exercise, the better I feel, mentally and physically, surprise!

So now I am beginning to feel like I can calm down, rope myself in a little bit and find some balance. Work, play, RELAX, repeat!

 

Soups On!

It has been a cold blustery week here and I enjoy making soup when the weather is like this. I just love having a pot of warm comfort simmering all day on the stove or in the crock pot! It warms my soul just thinking about it! Oh and if Jerry bakes some of his delicious fresh crusty bread it’s hard to beat! I can imagine sitting by the fire with a heavy earthen bowl of soup, dipping bread into the rich broth, savoring each bite, while reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain!

Ok back to reality!!! I live in Florida, I don’t have a fireplace! It has been cold but today it should be in the 70’s and the sun has just come out. Should be a beautiful day! No doubt I won’t be sitting in the house. However, I do enjoy making soup. I like all kinds of soup but one of my favorites is French Onion Soup. Here is a quick and easy recipe for some really delicious French Onion Soup.

1 lb large onions sliced nice and thin, cook in a large heavy cast iron pan in ¼ cup of butter until translucent, then take 2 pints of beef stock bring it to a boil and pour it carefully over the onions. Next add 2 twigs of fennel or ¼ tsp of fennel seed, a couple cloves, salt and pepper to taste. Bring it all to a gentle simmer. Then in a long handled spoon, hold a teaspoon of sugar, very carefully, over heat until it caramelizes, stir this into the soup. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile place a slice of toasted french bread in each oven safe bowl, top with some grated cheese(gruyere, provolone, or mozzarella) Add a dash of brandy to the soup, ladle it into your bowls over the toast, add more cheese on top and stick bowls under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Enjoy! This soup has turned even my most finicky friends into onion soup lovers!

And if you haven’t read Kitchen Confidential, you must! Anthony Bourdain has a wonderful writing style. He almost makes you feel like you are sitting down with the bad boy of cooking and having a chat! Check it out and let me know what you think.

 

It’s All Good

IMG_0719Wow the beginning of the year, always a whirlwind of activity! There always seems to be so much going on, not to mention all the birthdays and out of town visitors we have at this time of the year. We just got through Christmas and New Years and the energy is high to get the new year kicked off right. So, you just started eating clean, your feeling so much better, fresh fruits and veggies in the fridge yea! Then the birthday cakes and the hot chocolate come, oh just a little won’t hurt! Have a bonfire on these wonderful cool crisp evenings, just one smore! Company comes, decadent food is prepared (you know you want to show off your cooking skills!) it seems like all we are doing is eating!!!I don’t know about you, but I like to eat cozy warming foods when its cold out, a salad just doesn’t seem to have the same appeal to me when it’s 30 degrees outside. The crazy food dance begins! Eat this, not that! Organic, GMO, local, free range, the list goes on and on! You can have a little, no you should NEVER eat that! Every year the information about food and healthy eating gets more and more confusing! Or should I say tiring?

It seems like a distant dream…sitting by a cozy fire with a cup of hot chocolate still in your jammies curled up with the dogs, a good book, and no guilty conscience….YEAH RIGHT! So much to do, often seems overwhelming. Not to mention the crazy weather we have here in Florida, one day its 80 degrees and the next day it is freezing. Cover the plants, uncover the plants, whoops forgot one…it froze! Blanket the horses it’s gonna be cold, uncover the horses their sweating in their blankets! It can be cold enough that you don’t want to go outside but, you still can. I think I have just realized this could be a downside of living in Florida, we never have a down time, a time to hibernate. I think nature wants us to slow down in the winter to reflect, relax, and renew. The earth does, the animals do, everything is asleep but me! I find that I rarely find the time to read a good book, and I love a good read. Note to self…make the time!

I know it is all just silly…I do it to myself! This month I have started a new artist support group at my studio, which had to be cleaned out and whacked into shape, I am experimenting with new forms of art and trying to meet a show deadline. Just started a new batch of Kombucha. I have reconnected with some old friends. Had some inspiring conversations and I am trying to meditate for 20 minutes a day. There are times to be still and times to get a move on! It’s all good!

Is it just me or…

Ok I certainly don’t want to rain on anybodies parade and I’m sure this has probably been someone’s best Christmas ever but for me I’m not so sure.

Now mind you my daughter is all grown up, I don’t have any children in my life right now. Christmas with children is always magical. I know Christmas is a wonderful celebration, a special time of year. But for some reason this year seemed flat. I’m not sure why? Maybe it’s the advertising and commercialism of the whole thing that seemed to start way back in October. By the time Christmas finally got here maybe we were sick of it. Maybe I got hit with the grinch stick, I don’t know? I tried to get into it, I tried to look forward to it. I usually enjoy the season, cozying up and drinking hot chocolate, sitting outside on a brisk night by the fire. But this year in Florida it has been 85 degrees, wearing tank tops and flip flops doesn’t put me in the caroling mood.

We did have family and friends come to visit and plenty of delicious lovingly prepared food. But for some reason I couldn’t help feel that it was all a lot of extra work. Maybe my mind was elsewhere, on things I had to put on hold for the holiday. Maybe it was the fact that we tried to not buy into all the hype. We are all grown ups and pretty much get the things we want and need. Every year  we rack our brains and fight the crowds to try to get everyone something thoughtful and unique. We run around spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need! Enough! We wanted to get back to the spirit of the holiday to enjoy each other’s company and share a nice meal.  It was nice not having the extra pressure of the perfect gift, but not everyone was on board. That made for some uncomfortable moments! Not to mention my 88 year old father trying to start up inappropriate conversations, that’s one way to quiet down a room, total silence! Lol But I guess that’s part of the getting together with family thing! As for not spending a bunch of money you don’t have at the holidays, that nice meal along with all the extras of feeding family and friends for days cost at least $500!  Not to mention days of shopping, cleaning, and preparation! I did pare it back as much as I could. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy the cooking and baking we had a lot of laughs, the time in the kitchen was fun. We made some amazing breakfasts, and shared some delicious new foods with everyone, persimmons grown from my tree, a wonderful new bacon we found, eggs from our free range chickens, and turning people on to a fruitcake they could love! Scott made an entire turkey with all the fixins one day, Jerry and I made sauce and meatballs and lasagna, our traditional Christmas dinner. I also baked my famous fruitcakes and some blondies.

All things considered, I guess it was good. Even though we tried to cut back and make the holiday less stressful there always seems to be that rush, a flurry of craziness at the holidays. Maybe that’s what it’s all about? Maybe I will get it right next year. 🙂

Progress

First Macs

First Macs

In anticipation of the coming season I am making a batch of apple butter, something my Mom always made. I am making Slow Cooker Chai Apple Butter a new recipe I found in this months issue of Eating Well magazine. You know I am a sucker for the wonderfully exotic aromatic spices of chai, so I thought I would give it a shot. As I was peeling and coring 5 pounds of apples it gave me time to contemplate all the wonderful happenings in my life. I am so grateful for all that I have. Life is good!

The summer is almost over. It’s getting close to my favorite time of year! I absolutely love fall! A little cooler weather a little less humidity! I enjoy the foods and colors of fall? I enjoy the sports and the return to routine of fall. It is grounding for me. People generally seem happier to me in the fall. We have had an extremely hot and busy summer here on the farm. It has taken some work but we have gotten tons accomplished around here. We are trying to get everything set up to be more efficient. Trying to make the chores take less time by putting up automatic waterers and installing some irrigation. I don’t mind the chores, I actually enjoy them but since we travel often I don’t want it to be a burden for anyone else. We have been getting the equipment in order and staying on top of things! I feel we are getting caught up. We are definitely making progress! It just feels like the new season is bringing new energy! It is so exciting to me when we get big jobs accomplished. It just frees my mind to think of designing new things like a new deck or a garden room! We might even plant a fall garden.  It will be lovely out soon and we will want to spend time outside with friends and family! I can’t wait!!!