Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On That Slippery Slope...

I did it: I finally signed up for Facebook.

Kate Bannister Tracton's Facebook profile

My webland evolution has been tortoise-like: slow and steady. First it was an email address, about 12 years ago. I was happy to dip my toes into the Web Pool with email, getting in touch with some old friends and current family. And it was great to be in such close, and frequent, contact. At the time, I thought email was about all the internet I was interested in. How wrong I was!

In the mid-90's, Marble Man, my resident techno-geek, told me I should have a website. So, we designed one, and after several permutations, got it to where I'm happy with the way it came out. Of course, no one EVER goes there! So, I use it mostly as an online catalog for store buyers and potential customers.

After the website was up for a while, I got turned onto blogging. And well, it was Marble Man who (once again) told me I should start one. After a bunch of false starts and some resistance on my part, I found my voice. You can see from my sidebar just how much I've enjoyed it. I've even learned a bit of html code so I can tweak my template. (I can't leave anything alone!) If there is a way to make my site reflect my own tastes, then I'll figure it out.

Last year, I signed up with Etsy.com. That was a big leap for me ~ having to take all those pictures, upload all my inventory, etc. But it's been good, and I've had some sales from it.

Now, along comes Facebook. Marble Man's family convinced him to sign up for it this weekend when they were all together. I was very surprised that he did it. But, he's been telling me about it and sounding so animated that I checked into it for myself. I never thought I'd do this - I mean, to have so many people out there able to see what you are up to minute-by-minute, seemed very intrusive to me. I signed up anyway - as Marble Man said "c'mon, honey! Get with the Millennium, already!"

I got my page all set up, lined up some "friends", and have been poking around the site getting familiar with it. So far today, I've been on Facebook for about 5 hours. I think I might need an intervention! As one of my friends just posted: "Slowly, back away from the computer..."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What’s Cooking Sunday: Risotto With Saffron & Shrimp

While Marble Man’s away, I decided I didn’t want to do so much cooking. I’m concentrating on one-dish meals. This one is very hearty, full of flavor, and is very easy as well:

Risotto With Saffron And Shrimp
serves 4
prep time: 10 minutes
cooking time: approximately 30 minutes

3½ C low-sodium chicken broth
½ C warm water
Pinch saffron
1 tsp olive oil
½ C finely chopped shallots
7 oz Arborio or other short grain rice
1 C white wine
12 oz shrimp, peeled, deveined, and halved, cross-wise
4 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

In medium saucepan bring broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer until ready to use.

In small bowl, combine water and saffron and set aside.

In separate non-stick saucepan, heat oil and add shallots. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 1 minute. Add rice and stir to coat. Continue to stir and cook 1 additional minute. Add wine and 1 cup of the simmering broth. Cook, stirring frequently until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Stir in saffron and water mixture and ½ C of broth. Cook, stirring frequently until liquid is absorbed. Add all but ½ C of the broth, ½ C at a time stirring frequently after each addition until liquid has been absorbed.

Add the shrimp and the remaining ½ C of broth. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes until shrimp are pink and rice mixture is creamy. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and pepper.

Nutritional info for each serving:

330 calories
5 g total fat
87 mgs cholesterol
218 mgs sodium
54 g carbohydrate
1 g dietary fiber
19 g protein
76 mg calcium
*Note: You can play with the ingredients for this recipe.

If you don’t have shallots, you can use ½ C chopped onion and a couple of cloves of chopped garlic.

Asparagus would be very good in it, or use your imagination and let me know what you did!

Enjoy. :-)

Friday, February 20, 2009

More Beautiful Music

While Marble Man is out of town for a long weekend with his family, Pooch and I are getting in some quality time together, exploring new musical genres. For a long time I was stuck in the 60's, 70's, and 80's (especially the 80's!). And while that's all fun and good, it doesn't do much to stretch my mind. So, I've been watching World Music on LINK TV again, and now have a new favorite singer.

She is Kiran Ahluwalia, Indian by birth, raised in Canada, and intensively trained in singing Gazals and Punjabi folk songs for the past 10 years. She is truly amazing: her voice is pure, her band is modern while maintaining the exotic feel of the musical color and rhythms. When I listen to her, I close my eyes and I can imagine the smell of hot, spice-filled air and beautiful sari-clad and bejeweled girls dancing. If you are looking for Far eastern music with a truly authentic, dreamy quality, she's your girl!

I hope you enjoy this gazal composed by her (her husband is playing the electric guitar):

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pooch Update

So now that some time has passed, I can tell you with certainty that Pooch has recovered from his sharp decline a couple of weeks ago. We've figured out that he stopped eating because he doesn't seem to recognize food for what it is anymore. He ACTS hungry, but put a plate of chow down in front of him and he just hovers over it, confused. I mentioned in a previous post that we've resorted to syringe-feeding him, and the weird thing is: he LIKES it! I feel our relationship has taken a kinky turn.

I sit over him on the floor, gripping him so he can't escape, stick the full syringe in the side of his mouth, and he *glugs* the food down. If I'm too slow at pushing the food out, he bites at the end of the syringe. AND, if I pick up any food that spills out of his mouth and offer it to him on a spoon, he turns his head away; if I put it back into the syringe, he can't gobble it fast enough. Weird. Luckily for him, it's not too much for us to handle at this point. So, we'll keep doing it.

Now that he's recovered, he's back to doing what he does best: snuggling, sleeping, and, well.... dog stuff.

Our little "Couch Hound" hard at work

(I promise he only LOOKS like roadkill here! No need for mouth-to-mouth {EEEwwww} - he's busily chasing dream rabbits.)

Thanks to all of you for your kind comments in my last posts about Pooch. They helped a lot.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What's Cooking Sunday: Apple Crisp

One of the many diets I've been on is the South Beach Diet. It's probably the BEST one I've experienced, being the easiest to maintain. ( Over time, I became lazy and stopped paying attention to what I was cramming into my face.) Today's recipe is one I gleaned from the Prevention.com South Beach message board many years ago. It seems like it has a lot of fat in it, but I make it very often, and STILL lose weight!

Apple Crisp
serves 4
preheat oven to 350 degrees

4 medium-sized tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 C rolled oats
1/4 C oat flour (place 1/4 C rolled oats in a blender to make this)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2.5 T + 3/8 C Splenda, divided
1/2 C Smart Balance buttery spread
1 T cinnamon
2 T water

Spray a casserole dish with Pam. Place apples in a large bowl with nutmeg, cinnamon, water, and 3/8 C Splenda. Toss until apples are well-coated and transfer to casserole dish.

In a small bowl, combine the oats, 2.5 T Splenda, and oat flour. Add Smart Balance and work together with your fingers until combined.

*Note: this will seem like a sticky mess and you'll think something has gone horribly wrong. Don't worry - it will be delicious and crunchy at the end. Place this oat mixture on top of the apples.

Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour - 1 hour 15 minutes. Top should be golden brown. Serve warm and enjoy!

And, as Charmaine of High Desert Diva commented, this is wonderful the next day for breakfast. Not as crisp, but still good.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Winning Announcement

It's time to announce the winners for the One World One Heart giveaway contest! *Drumroll*

Hooray! Enzie at World Market Portraits is the lucky winner of my blue silk ribbon-embroidered picture frame.

And Christine of Du Buh Du Designs won the Agate and Sterling silver earrings.

Congratulations to you both. Send me your snail mail addresses and I'll send out your prizes as soon as I can.

Thanks to all who commented on my entry. I've made many new friends and I'm going to be spending a lot more time in Blogland from now on, that's for sure!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Taking Time For Me

I've been consumed with the act of keeping Pooch going for the past week and a half (actually for the past year). Somehow, I've gotten lost in the shuffle: I began defining the quality of my day by how well the dog did that day. Thankfully, Marble Man stepped up this weekend and I got to swipe the cobwebs out of the studio doorway and do some beading. (Oh, yeah... she makes jewelry, right?) It took a while to get my groove going, since I haven't made any jewelry projects since Thanksgiving. It really got away from me!

A couple of weekends ago, I treated myself to a triple-shot-skinny-latte at Barnes & Noble while perusing the latest issue of Bead and Button Magazine. There's something special about a new mag: the smell of the fresh pages, the promise of projects to come, and the thought of learning something new. Last Fall I made a stab at teaching myself the flat peyote stitch. I love the whole idea of bead weaving. You take piles of little tiny things and weave them together to make a greater whole. The bracelet I made was fun and cute, and used fairly large beads. It was a good first project but I wanted to step up the difficulty a notch or two. I set out my dishes of size 11 and 15 seed beads and polished up my reading glasses. Those 15's are very tiny!

I started with some beautiful 14mm crystal rivoli's. When they arrived in the mail, I thought, "well this is interesting - there's no hole for stringing! What do I do with this?" I sat down with my new mag, turned to the instructions for bezels and figured out how to make one using peyote stitch. Basically, it's a beaded cage that encases the rivoli. It came out pretty well. So, now I have this beautiful pendant, and what am I going to do with it?

The bracelet I made last time used even-count peyote stitch. To shake things up I thought I'd try odd-count peyote and make some beaded tubes to match my new pendant.

Turns out, odd-count peyote is a little trickier than even-count, but I got it figured out and see the result!

Now to make a tubular right-angle weave rope to hang these beauties on, and I'll have a real treasure.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Too Busy Cooking for Pooch...

... and much too tired to cook for us. I had to skip the What's Cooking Sunday feature this week. We've been just picking at leftovers and foraging for ourselves.

We've had quite a trying time with Pooch. He's decided to be just as finicky as That-Cat-He-Thinks-He-Is and is refusing food. One of the sideways symptoms of his liver failure is that now he's hypoglycemic. We HAVE to get him to eat or deal with seizures. So, we pulled out the feeding syringe and have been force-feeding him four to five times a day!

Hopefully, Mette will be back in her office this week and can pull some rabbit from the deep recesses of her magic hat.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Our Dog is a Cat...

From drawings

We've always suspected this, but yesterday had it confirmed. Several times throughout his 15 year lifetime, our heroic vet, Mette Tompkins, has had to snatch our dear Pooch from the Jaws of Death. The first time was when he bit off the pointy end of a corn cob, swallowed it, and couldn't pass it. He had major exploratory surgery to have it removed. And we moved the trash can to a closed closet. Who knew a 12 pound little dachshund could open a garbage can on his own?!?

A year later, our Foolish Boy swallowed the knuckle-end of his Nylabone. *sigh* I just KNEW I was taking him to see his Auntie Mette, the vet, the following day. Sure enough, she said we had to have the SAME surgery, they would even follow the previous incision. We told her to go ahead and install a zipper since we sensed a developing pattern!

Throughout the years, he's burned through what seemed to be the first eight of his Nine Lives. Then the worst news ever: 2 years ago, our Beloved Beast was diagnosed with liver failure. Hello Ninth Life. Defying all odds, he's lasted 2 years with this terminal condition, when the vet said he'd probably be done in 6 months. (We're convinced that he's decided to outlive us out of sheer cussedness!) It hasn't been easy.

This past week was a bad one. He stopped eating. Nada, Zip. No amount of doctoring of his prescribed dog food could convince him to eat. I was even trying to spoon feed him. His reaction upon facing the plate of chow was to physically recoil and he seemed to say "Ew, ew, ew EWWWWW!" Stress and Worry piled onto our shoulders - yesterday I was in serious need of Cupcakes, or Chocolate... or maybe both.

We took him back to Auntie Mette's office yesterday. She suggested we try cat food and opened up a can right there in the exam room. She, Marble Man and I, and the vet techs watched as the dog hoovered the stuff up. Success! Then he looked around with this look of suspicion on his face: "Wait a minute... when I come here, they don't usually put stuff in THIS end!"

Long story short, the little Monster is eating with gusto... for now. This just confirms our belief that he's a cat: Nine fully-lived lives, and he gobbles cat chow.

Feb 6, Update:
The honeymoon with the new food lasted exactly 24 hours. Crap! Now he's back to hovering over the dish, but refusing to eat. We've tried heating it up, adding tomato sauce, peanut butter, Parmesan cheese... to no avail.

Any ideas?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

What’s Cooking Sunday: Black Bean & Turkey Chili With Golden Raisin & Rosemary Muffins

What’s more iconic to serve on Superbowl Sunday than chili and cornbread? Well, I’ve got a lean, yet delicious, version of chili here using black beans and ground turkey. You can go with the usual cornbread on the side, but how about trying some Golden Raisin and Rosemary Muffins instead? They are light, savory, and slightly sweet at the same time.

Black Bean, Turkey, & Corn Chili
Serves 6

1 T vegetable oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
1 T ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground black pepper
2¼ tsp garlic powder
1 ¾ C chicken broth
1 C chunky salsa
1 T sugar
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (16 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained

Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over med-high heat. Add the turkey, onion, and spices. Cook until turkey is well browned, stirring frequently to break up the meat.

Stir in the broth, salsa, sugar, beans and corn . Heat to a boil, then reduce heat to low.

Cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Golden Raisin and Rosemary Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1¾ C all purpose flour
¼ C sugar
1 T baking powder
¾ tsp salt
¾ C skim milk
¾ C golden raisins
2-3 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1/3 C cooking oil
1 egg, lightly beaten

In small saucepan, heat milk, raisins and rosemary at a simmer for 2 minutes. (It will look curdled, but this is OK.) Add cooking oil and cool slightly. Add in beaten egg.

In large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add milk and raisin mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened.

Divide evenly in greased muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden. Remove from pan, and serve warm.