Friday, October 23, 2009

The Bathroom?! Seriously?

Things found in the bathroom of my office building that should not be there:

Drink containers. Left perched on the TP dispenser. Straw and all. Blech. Please tell me you don't come back to get these.

A toy poodle. Apparently the leash was looped over the hook inside the stall door - the dog was almost hung when the owner opened the door without removing the leash first. This owner talked with the dog while in the stall. Very unsettling. Even more unsettling was the lack of even a flicker of response from the poodle. Probably too morose about being tied up in the lav yet again.

Your cell phone conversation. I am the person next to you who flushes the toilet three times. I do it because I'm incredibly annoyed that you are so unable to function without your celly buddies that you must take them to the loo with you. I know that those flushes echo in that cavernous bathroom, and I do it just to make sure the person you're talking to knows exactly where you've taken them. I know YOU won't notice, but I always hope they will, and that they'll mind enough to hang up on you.

A list of "who is hot" on the stall door. Please, there are a million "James" and "Bills", with nary a last name listed. "Professor D" is not very revealing either. Way to live on the wild side with the bathroom graffiti. Protecting the innocent perhaps? I'm not sure how to feel about the person who wrote "Me", but I'll admit it made me laugh.

Paper problems. What difficulties could you possibly have with toilet paper that would cause you to strew a million shredded pieces of it all over the floor like some nesting hamster? Or pull a Hansel and Gretel and trail miles of it around the bathroom? Also, with the trash can right beside you... why is your sodden mass of paper towel balled up in the drain of the sink?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Halloween creeps on little crow feet...

If your mind is turning to pumpkins and spooks these days, browse my better half's Halloween blog.
For years we had very creative friends living nearby who enthusiastically decorated their yard and home each year. Together, we created quite a tradition and I love that Steve decided to pass it along. There's a nice collection of projects and ideas in his blog.

Our friends moved halfway across the country a few years ago... but guess where we're going for Halloween this year?!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Look What I Did!

I dyed yarn!
I decided to give hand-dyeing a try on my vacation last week and I'm so chuffed with the results that I had to share. Mark paid them a wonderful compliment by saying, "They look like yarn you would buy." It was not terribly difficult, and it was a lot of fun. I may have found a new fiber obsession!

Warming up - Granola

The weather here the last few days has been miserably wet and cold. In fall, when daylight is already beginning to make itself scarce, storms turn a day to perpetual twilight. Don't picture nice twinkly evening light when I say "twilight", picture daylight like dirty, wet concrete - dank and grey. There's been just enough wind to drive the cold into your skin. Blech.

I'm fighting back. With granola. A hugenormous batch of granola. The oven makes my kitchen toasty, and it smells almost as good as pie when it's baking. I stumbled upon an online recipe with good proportions and altered it beyond all recognition to become one of my favorite breakfasts. Here it is:

Suit Yourself Granola

This granola is lovely with milk or greek yoghurt. During cold weather, I add a bit of water or applesauce and reheat it - homemade hot granola is worlds better than hot cereal packets!

5 cups rolled oats
(I use a combo of rolled oats, barley/wheat/rye flakes, ground flax seed - whatever strikes my fancy from the bulk section)
4 Tbs. vegetable oil (I've used canola oil too, since it's supposed to be better for you)
3/4 cup honey (or a mix of your sweetners of choice - honey, agave and maple syrup all work wonderfully)
3-4 cups of dried fruits and nuts (pecans, almond slivers, sunflower seeds, cranberries, apricots, cherries) Chopped or unchopped is up to you - size does affect how the nuts roast.

Measure your oats and grains into a large bowl - stirring can be messy, so allow yourself some extra room in your bowl choice. I add the ground flaxseed later in the process, as it tends to sift to the bottom of the bowl when mixed with the other dry ingredients.

Heat the oil and sweetener in a saucepan over medium heat. Different sweeteners respond differently to heat - watch carefully so as not to burn the sugars. You want the sweetener to dissolve and mix with the oil. Add spices to this liquid mixture if you'd like. Pour warm liquid mixture over the dry grains, and stir in thoroughly. Once everything seems evenly coated, add the ground flax seed - it will stick to the other grains now.At this point, I like to let my granola sit and stew in its own juices a bit - from a few hours to overnight (well covered). But you can spring right into baking if you'd like. There's a slight difference in texture and flavor - each method tastes great, but I notice a difference.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Stir nuts into the unbaked granola. Spread granola onto cookie sheets (I use one or two cookie sheets at a time, depending on how efficient I feel like being), and bake in the oven for 10 minute intervals. I stir the granola at least every ten minutes, and find that it takes 20-30 minutes for each batch. Baking time can be very dependent on the grains and nuts I've used. I use quite a bit of flax seed, and that tends to toast up easily, so I watch the color of the baking granola carefully, and set my timer for smaller increments if need be. Watch the edges - they tend to brown more quickly.

Mix any dried fruits into your granola after it comes out of the oven - preferably while it's still warm. I once made the mistake of baking a batch with dried fruit in it - the dried apricots were too chewy, and I almost cracked a tooth on the cranberries!

This recipe has proved to be quite forgiving. It doubles and triples nicely, and I am able to play with a combination of sweeteners. This last batch was a mix of the last of my agave and some local honey. I've used agave alone (it has a low glycemic index), as well as with maple syrup. The finished granola stores well in an airtight container, for a few weeks. I eat a lot of it, so it's not around for long.