Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ginger Spice Cookies

Since the opening of Expertec Automotive Repair in February, I've made hundreds and hundreds of cookies. I'm always tweaking recipes, working on getting them just right.

One recipe I worked on was for old fashioned ginger spice cookies. I wanted them to be chewy, with crisp edges but not hard and crunchy. My recipe is just that, with a yummy ginger spice flavor. I thought I'd share it...

Old Fashioned Ginger Spice Cookies

Beat until fluffy:
3 sticks of softened butter
2 cups of brown sugar
1 cup white sugar

Then add and beat well:
3/4 cups of molasses
3 eggs
1/4 cup oil

Add and mix until incorporated:
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon salt

Roll the dough into one inch balls. Toss each dough ball in coarse sugar and set on a baking sheet.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 14 minutes until set and crackly.
Underbaked cookies will be more soft and chewy, overbaked will be more crisp.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I like to eat. Well.

But Saturday was off the chart.

It started off with farm breakfast for a crowd. A bloody crowd that smelled a little like wet chicken.

We indulged in homemade cinnamon rolls. I used Pioneer Woman's prodigious recipe.

Breakfast also included grilled breakfast sausage, egg and cheese strata and banana pancakes with real Michigan maple syrup. More carbs and sugar than I usually have in the morning but it was mmmmmm good!

I tried to be good and to pace myself. I knew there would be even better victuals to come as the day went on.

Immediately after the kitchen clean-up when all the birds were chillin' in the freezer, I donned my garden chapeau and headed down the road to a lovely garden party.

Libation! On a Saturday afternoon?
Why, yes! I believe I will!

Lunch was divine! Vegetable clafouti, rosemary bread, crudites with vinaigrette...

...and a wonderful grilled pesto chicken salad.

I don't deserve this.

The setting felt like a magazine spread.

Like I'd fallen asleep in the chair with a Martha Stewart Living in my lap and it was all just a dream.

But what a delicious one.

I neglected to photograph the indulgent desserts that I provided for the luncheon.
We had pot de creme with a fresh strawberry and whipped cream.
And also my Lemon Cloud Blueberry Tart.

As if that wasn't enough- next we had a birthday party to attend.
And no nap in between.

The star of this meal was the spice rubbed, grilled salmon- fresh caught from the Columbia River...

...while the potluck featured so many delicious homemade dishes.

"And they returned home, pushing their stomachs before them."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Life On The Farm

REAL life on the farm.

Farm life is more than the sweet scent of freshly mown hay in June, sunflowers smiling at the sky and blueberry pie cooling on the window sill.

Farm life is also messy, stinky and sometimes unpleasant.

But it's life.

Real life.

Back to the basics, self-sufficient life.

If the messy, stinky and unpleasant parts of the farm disturb you, don't proceed with reading this post. If you recognize that messy and stinky are the stuff of life that even children need to be a part of....read on.

Saturday was chicken butchering day.
Not our most enjoyable chore to do but well worth doing.

We've spent years honing our chicken butchering skills. We're getting marginally better at it. Mistakes are always the best teachers.

We raise batches of cornish cross meat chickens, usually twenty-five at a time, twice a year. They grow quickly, in eight to ten weeks, and we've learned how to raise them with as few of the typical problems as possible. This batch had no broken feet or legs and we didn't loose a single bird to "flip over" (heart weakness problems) or even the raccoon that visited the coop every single night.

We don't have any new fangled contraptions for our butchering, like pluckers or cones. (Though we'd love to have them!) Mr. Dirtywrench grew up on a Midwestern farm and he does things the way his ma and pa did things.

When we butcher, we pluck our chickens though I know some prefer to skin chickens for the ease of it. The skin is extremely nutritious and since it is the source of the fat it holds all the flavor and moisture for the meat. I want that good skin on my birds when I roast them up for dinner. Plucking is a pain in the patooty but we do it.

We've recruited lots of different helpers in the past. Most will come for one try at it and don't return. I guess they didn't love the smell of wet chicken feathers in the morning.

There are two excellent helpers that faithfully returned this time and their help is invaluable to us. We try to treat them well!

Big Guy is our eviscerator.
His knife is SHARP and swift.

The helper who does the dirty job, the bloody one, doesn't wear a black hood, but I'll preserve his identity. He's good at his job and is happy to come back and help again.

I'm glad I don't have to do his laundry.

Shadow's job is to horde chicken heads. He frets terribly that he will miss one.
I dearly hope I don't find a pile of t hem somewhere in my flower beds.

My job was to make the crew happy with a big farm breakfast about half way through the work.
Chicken was NOT on the menu.

I try to keep the coffee cups and the tummies full.

My other job was to give the birds their last rinsing and to bag them up for the freezer.

There is nothing like the satisfaction of a job well done.

And there is nothing like the taste of fresh, home-raised, roasted chicken!

Friday, June 26, 2009


To my son...

The crazy, smiling, fun-loving...

...hardworking, tool guy!

It's your birthday!

And I just want to say-

It's been beyond great having you around for the last 23 years!

Happy Birthday!!

Love you much,


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Can you believe it's the same dog?

My dog, Shadow.

He's very old.
Something like 95 dog years old.
18 or 19 people years.

He spends all his time lying around and sleeping.

Inside, outside, in the dirt, on my new carpet, in the flower beds, under the sprinkler.
Wherever. He don't care!

Consequently, his beautiful border collie coat gets pretty skunky and matted.

Every spring he gets clipped and bathed but since he's gotten so feeble I was afraid taking him to the groomer would be the end of him. But he was getting bad. Really bad. He just had to go.

Once he was roused from his morning stupor and shook off his early day stiffness, he said, "Okay. Sure."

He did just fine. The groomer likes his sweet nature. Most of the other old dogs try to kill her, she said. But Shadow is a good dog. When he got home he was happier and perkier then he's been in ages. He ran up the steps like he was seventy years younger. He seemed to enjoy his day.

Does he actually like his haircut?
Cuz I don't. I always hate to do it.
But it had to be done.

Oohh.... Shadow.
I'm sorry.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Story of My Studio

I didn't always have a cute pottery studio as a place to exercise my creativity.

For the first seven years that I lived in Oregon, I was a potter without a studio, a man without a country, an artist without a muse. I worked at my pottery wheel in a spot behind the furnace in my parent's basement and my kiln sat outside or in the garage getting crumbly and rusty in the Northwest weather. I managed to make a few pots in these conditions but it wasn't easy.

Down the road from my house there was a little building that kind of looked like it had been there a hundred years or so.
And I secretly thought it would make a great little studio. I didn't want to have to cart unfired pots around anymore and I couldn't afford to pay any rent so I knew this building was out of the question. But I still thought about it when I drove by it. I never bothered to talk about the idea and no one knew about these thoughts except God.

Funny how sometimes He gives when we don't even ask.

One fine October day I got a call that the owner of the property where this building sat wanted the building taken off.

For free.
"Do you want it? It might make a good pottery studio."

Um... YES!

So, I turned to my husband, Mr. Dirtywrench, who never turns down something that's free, to figure out how to get that little building to our place to be my studio. He always figures this kind of stuff out and I was confident he could get it here.

So he devised a plan which started with taking the cute western facade and front wall off the building. We kept the door and the arched window. We also removed the four paned windows to keep them intact on the little trip the building needed to take.

Of course the previous occupants of the building had trashed the place and left it for us to deal with. Thanks.

Using jacks and magic wands and secret words muttered under his breath, Mr. D. prepared the building for moving.

He borrowed a flat-bed farm truck and employed the big boys to help with the job.

The building was lifted on jacks.

It got a little piggy-back ride on the truck, just barely skimming the ground.

It was quite a sight moving down the highway for a mile or so.

The building sat on the farm truck for about a month while a permanent site was prepared for it on our property.

This is one reason why I had a passel of boys. They can do things like pour concrete for me.
This job was the worst part of the whole project. Pouring and curing concrete in cold, wet weather is not ideal. Mr. Dirtywrench and our boys proved their love for me and my pottery with this.

In the mean time, winter arrived early.

Finally the concrete was ready to have a building set on it.

Isn't Mr. Dirtywrench brilliant?

The building was finished with a new front wall that included the charming arched window.
The interior walls also had to be replaced and painted.

The windows, which were so much a part of the charm of the building, were repaired and painted.

We've heard from the old-timers around here that this building has had several uses over the years, including a fishing tackle shop where tourist's fishing trips were arranged.

And...it had been a pottery studio.

Now I should have no excuses to not be a prolific pottery producer.
But I'm sure I can come up with some anyway.