The Snobby Homesteader’s Wine (boxed and oddly delicious)

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I do enjoy a glass of wine at dinner.  Sitting in the restaurant that my daughter, Emily, works at enjoying a small pizza and the house wine is enjoyable to me.  I told one of my friends who was there that the wine wasn’t the best, most award winning, but it was quite good, and really quite excellent with food.  I have a reputation for being a wine snob.  I am not proud of this, but I also am not drinking the mass produced style wines.  Concannon or Mondavi?  I’ll pass.

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I wasn’t always this way.  I didn’t start drinking any type of alcoholic beverage until I was twenty-seven years old.  And my first tastes of red wine were enjoyable as long as they were kind of weak.  Then I started tasting nuances that I really enjoyed as we began hanging out at the wine bar with friends more; dried fruit, molasses, vanilla, the taste of hot summer sun in the Andes…I have quite an imagination.  I wanted to know more about these tastes and was fascinated that a bottle of wine will taste different depending on what day you open it.  Terroir became a puzzle, a mystery of place and time,  or wine maker, and harvesters, of weather patterns, of flavor.  A few beginning sommelier classes made me even more obsessed and probably obnoxious to drink with.  Then I became a homesteader a little more seriously.  Which means that gone are the days of my beloved wine club.  No more cases of various wines being delivered up the front walk.  It was an expensive year this year and two hundred dollars being withdrawn every couple of months takes a chunk out of wood, rent, and chicken feed money.

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I passed the boxes in the liquor store on my way to find something else.  I never give boxed wine a second look.  The Black Box brand is pretty good and I have drunk it before, but off hand, I never really consider boxed wine a go-to for dinner.  But there were some new kinds there that had big notifications on their boxes.  “Gold Metal” and “Platinum” and the Pinot Noir touted “45 Gold Metals from Wine Enthusiast”…I backed up and swiveled towards the mystery boxes.  Bota Box was an eco friendly and highly awarded boxed wine.

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Eighteen dollars.  Now, I spend around $14 on one bottle.  I am not always home at dinner time, I do not like vinegary wine, and I am the only one who partakes in a nice glass at dinner in our home (Doug’s more a beer man.) so that last glass in there often goes to waste.  Well, not to waste but into the red wine vinegar mother (click here to see how to make your own red wine vinegar) and then I need another $14 bottle of wine for the next week.  The boxed wine has four bottles in it, all sealed up nice and protected from oxygen, which is what turns it into vinegar, and will last up to four weeks.  Huh.  Funny the things homesteading with little cash will inspire you to try.

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“Look at the Franzia, it’s cheaper,” says my ever cost conscience non-wine connoisseur.

“Oh, heck no.  I am not drinking Franzia.”  Who the heck does he think I am?

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I chose an award winning boxed wine and imagine it to be like the demijohns of red wine that the Italians fill up at the local winery and took it home.

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Again, I rarely find that “Oh My Gosh, this is awesome wine!!!” and it is always a treat when I do but I want a good wine that goes well with food or on its own with a good book.  The Pinot Noir, the Sauvignon Blanc, and the Merlot have all delivered on that.  I am impressed.  The boxed wine is affordable, more eco-friendly, and good?  This is a win, win, win situation.

A few nights ago I cut through the restaurant kitchen with Emily to help her load the baby into the car after she got off work.  I looked up to see their house wine.  Franzia.  I had to just shake my head and laugh.

 

 

A Walk in the Vineyards (visiting Napa)

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Is wine just another drink?  A snobby, pretentious one?  An expensive bottle of grape juice?  It is more than that, of course, as I have written in Wine 101 and Wine 200.  The puzzle of finding out where the grapes were grown, in what kind of soil, surrounded by what, in what climate, on old or new vines.  These can all be answered in a glance, smell, sip.  I love that one can find so many complexities and aromas in a simple glass of…well….grape juice.

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And behind all that, the fancy restaurants, the food pairings, the bottles snug in the cellar, is the farmer.  A farmer, workers, wine makers, all making this journey through dinner sensational.

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Homesteaders have been making their own wine for many, many centuries.  Fermenting grapes was a way to preserve the bounty and provided safer refreshment than water at many times.  It is a preservation method, a return on the farmer’s time and energies growing this humble fruit.

Following the vineyard tour of Pine Crest in Napa, I took to memory everything the guide said about the growing of the grapes.  Hillside, sun, distance from the ground, sugar content, days on the vine.  I kept asking questions.  I must grow grapes.  A sad shake of the head met me.  140 days on the vine.

“Oh, I can do that.  I have a four and a half months to grow.”  That is a hundred and forty days after the fruit is visible, after flowering, after Spring, 140 days.

“Oh wait, that is my entire growing season!”  Oh, Kiowa, you high desert land, you’re killing me as a farmer over here!

But you know me, if someone tells me in Napa Valley, where they know grapes and wine, that I can’t grow grapes, I’ll be shopping for Sangiovese and Petite Sirah grapes the second my plane lands back in Colorado.  There has got to be a way for me to grow good grapes.  I will research areas similar to my climate and see what they grow.  Surely along the equatorial line Colorado matches up with somewhere like France across the globe.

Six dollar wines with cute animals on them or fancy Italian words used to be my wine of choice.  Now, you can find a darn good wine at twelve bucks, but I used to think the Costco style wines, in all their bulk glory and appealing labels, were the best wines.  Then I started enjoying red blends, their smooth, creamy textures, albeit void of intense complexity, seemed fitting for any occasion (and still can be).  Though I love a good puzzle.  And the puzzle can only be found in single vineyard wines.

Single vineyard is how you know the grapes came from the same place.  That wine will give you more uniqueness, as it will whisper to you notes about its soil constitution, how far its roots traveled, how much sun it received, how old the vines are.  Its own place on the planet written out in a bottle.

Estate grown means that it is grown on the vineyard owner’s properties, but their vineyards could be miles apart.

Reserve means that it was grown in a particular patch of vineyard, a more expensive wine generally, but a more concentrated memory of where it was grown.  The best area of the vineyard.

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We walked through the vast vineyards.  Watched as row upon row clung to the hillside taking in the glorious sun.  Smelled the sacrificial roses.  They are there to attract insects.  The destructive bugs will hopefully go to the roses instead of eating the precious fruit.

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We walked through the warehouse-looking area where thirty feet high there were stacked newly harvested and resting wine hovering in French oak barrels.  Enormous steel tanks held bubbling early fermentations of wine.  We walked into the cave.  Several miles of caves exist under the buildings.  Rows and rows of oak line the walls filled with their proud vintage.  We tasted a sample right out of the barrel.  It was delicious.  Creamy, interesting, smooth, filled with berries, molasses, spice, and vanilla.  We walked further down the cool caves (incidentally only three degrees cooler than my basement…I can do this!) and came upon a beautiful round table with three dozen shimmering glasses and small plates of cheese.  We went through three tastes of wines, each delightful with its chosen cheese, and savored the romantic cave atmosphere.

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Next Google search; zone 4 grape vines and an oak barrel.

Homestead Sitter and New Residents

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The to-do lists are on hold.  My back hurts and I am going on vacation Friday and I am betting that the chores will wait for me.  The weedy and overgrown front yard, the tired garden beds waiting to be put under sheets of leaves for winter, the yard cleaned, and cushions needing to be put up will probably still be here when I get back.  Time for a little rest and rejuvenation.

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It takes a special friend to allow homesteaders to leave their post.  This isn’t our old, “Can you pop by and make sure the cats have water every couple of days?”  This is, “How would you like to get up at dawn to let the dogs out?  You have to carry the old one outside.  Lean down in the chicken coop and gather eggs, let the chickens out.  You’ll have to sleep here to take care of everything.  Water plants.  Feed 27 animals while we are gone.  No pressure.”  And just like an angel, she says, “Okay.”  Kathy will even be spending her birthday here at our little farmstead.  We are so grateful that she is willing to take care of the zoo here.  Thank you.  Thank you!

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We are visiting dear friends in California that we haven’t seen in awhile.  Field trips to vineyards, San Francisco, and the ocean on the agenda.  The first time in five years that our business will be closed for a week. I will have to force myself to not answer phone calls all day.  Leave the phone in my room.  Soak up time with Doug, Steve, and Lisa, and a new environment.  It may be the last time for awhile.  Kat’s list of charges may be increasing when we come home.

Riddle: 4 1/2 new residents will be coming to live at Pumpkin Hollow Farm mid-November.  Can you guess who they are?  

To Screw or Cork…

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A few years back we were sitting in an upscale wine bar, twinkly lights abounded, a joyful dancing fire warmed in the large fireplace,  It was our monthly wine tasting event and we were cozy with the owner at a table as people milled around sampling, catching up on the month’s events.  I came back to the table with my next sampling.

“This wine has a screw cap!”  Giggle, giggle, shake my head.

I could see that Lee had explained this many times and just as he had explained to me how to pronounce meritage, he patiently explained to me the reason for screw caps.

Cork is endangered, actually.  It is a tree.  And we sure use a lot of it to make floors, and wine corks, and corkboard.  One could choose the plastic type corks but they expand and contract.  So does the cork, actually.

The wine maker pouring the wines cut in.  “Every one in one hundred bottles gets oxygen into it via the cork.  That ruins the wine.  I only have one shot at getting people to fall in love with my wine,” he says, “It may not seem like a lot, but one out of a hundred people are not going to re-purchase or try my wines again because of it.  Screw caps keep oxygen out better than plastic or corks.”

This is also cost effective and helps keep wines affordable.

“Do you know how much I paid for that wine?” my dinner guest exclaimed ($13), “I can’t believe it has a screw cap on it!”

I proceeded to tell her what I just told you.  It wasn’t until last night that I remembered my own lesson.  I had bought different bottles of wine during the week but had taken them to friend’s houses and left it or my friends drank it all at my house.  (I helped.)  Last night I wanted a glass.  I had three bottles of half drunk wine.  One vinegary, one really vinegary, and the one with the screw cap.  Doug poured me a glass of the screw capped one.  I hesitantly sniffed it since it  was about ten days old and after four, we typically pitch it.  It smelled of Sangiovese, of Italian countryside, fresh currants, and cinnamon….

Ah, screw caps, you spoil me.

Real Homestead Follies

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A real homestead has mud.  We live in the country for God’s sake!  I can mop one minute and the next minute see paw and boot prints across the floor.  We tried to have everyone take off their shoes as they came in.  But who wants to come in the front door, unlace their boots, get whatever they came in to get, go to back door five minutes later, put on and lace up boots once again and then go outside?  Everyone just tip toes across the floor (if the dirt doesn’t know you are inside, it won’t fall off!) leaving tracks in their wake.  The dog is the worst.  I do hope what my grandma always told me rings true.  “People are there to see you, not your house.”

A real homestead has dust for the same reason it has mud.  The fairgrounds are behind us and the wind that kicks up over there is impressive.  They could film a dust bowl scene back there.  The dust enjoys sauntering in and landing on freshly dusted surfaces.  I dust once a week (if I am lucky) and the rest of the week I ignore the furniture.

A real homestead has the amazing phenomenon of immaculate to tornado status in 3.5 seconds flat.  If you are home alone, and all the animals are outdoors, and the children are not there, and the hubby isn’t there either….bask for a few seconds because in a real homestead, real life happens and no matter how much we want the house to look like a magazine (ok, mine could pass in a magazine decoratively speaking but they would only have 3.5 seconds to photograph it) real life doesn’t look like magazine pages unless it is real boring!

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Real homesteads deal a lot in poo.  It’s a phobia we all best get over.  From grandbaby’s diapers, to old dogs, to mass chickens, to your friend’s horse manure for the garden.  Poo happens.  Just have soap nearby for your hands.

Real homesteads are a three ring circus.  There are more animal antics then Animal Planet television shows.  Goats crying, chickens running around with bloomers flapping, dogs playing, cats trying to kill the dog, squirrels in the chicken coop, birds singing their hearts out just outside.

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Real homesteads have great food.  It’s a given.  And on any particular night that you do not feel like cooking, head over to your friend’s homestead.  There is guaranteed to have some fresh, home cooking on the table with enough to go around.  No processed, no crap.  Just straight from the source healthy ingredients and country lovin’s by the spoonful!

Real homesteads have great company.  Chaotic, easy going spaces attract like minded people and there is always good laughter and great wine to be had when you have a homestead.

Real homesteads have security.  Whether it be Smith & Wesson or the simple knowledge that your neighbors got your back, there is less fear on a homestead.  Out here one does always notice a car that isn’t supposed to be there, or recognizes everyone they see, or knows what is going on from town gossip, so not a whole lot of surprises can come to a homestead.

Real homesteads have stars.  They have brilliant demonstrations of light and Mother Nature so that we are secure in the fact that we are not in charge and we can just bask in the awe of the powers that be.  From wind, to rain, to sun, to snow, from the lovely heat of a spring day to the full moon and stars at night, we become one with nature.  Keenly aware of weather changes, animal migrations, seasons.

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Real homesteads are built on good intentions.  In my post, “The Handy Dandy Washing Machine” I bragged shamelessly about finding a way to get clothes spotless, fairly quickly, and the old fashioned way.  Well, folks…after three months of bitter cold more often than I can remember and more snow than I can remember, the frost bitten fingers were getting old, the north wind was my nemesis, and the pile up in the laundry room of clothing and towels, and sheets, and everything else under the sun, was overwhelming.  Then add in eight days of vacation and all the clothes from that.  I handed Doug what was left of our savings and said, “Kindly pick me up milk, bread, and a washing machine.”  I have never been so excited to do laundry in my whole life.  Attempting to sooth my ego my dear friends, Kat and Rod, mentioned that I have a lot of irons in the fire and accepting this bit of help from a washing machine is okay.  Also, when hand washing was the only way, women only wore two dresses!  A few aprons to wash would be a heck of a lot easier to wash than the department store our house has become.

So, I admit defeat.  I have a washer.  Today I have fiddle lessons, tomorrow (weather permitting) a Master Gardening lesson, Wednesday is butter and cheese making with Nancy, spinning, planting, chicken incorporation, three homemade meals a day, honey bees are coming, shop to run, grandbaby to love, and a house of chaotic charm.  I must have a real homestead!

So, whether you have a homestead in an apartment, in town, or in the country, happy homesteading!

Becoming the Farm Paparazzi (and who won the award)

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It probably makes Doug happy that our anniversary is a week after Valentine’s Day because he is let off the hook for pricey Valentine’s gifts…just flowers and a sweet card will do!  I bought him a nice bottle of rum and a card.  Flowers might have been lost on him.  But for our anniversary we exchange something lovely.  Like turquoise oftentimes.  Cause Mama loves a little turquoise! And since that costs considerably less than a diamond, I am thinking Doug is a lucky husband to have it so easy!  This year, however, my jewelery box literally overflows.  I am a spoiled woman indeed with all my colorful baubles.  I can transport myself to Santa Fe in two shakes of a necklace or earrings…or bracelet or ring or multiples of them all!  So, he was a bit stumped this year.

I am having the time of my life writing this blog and I do imagine it as a book in about a year with the sequel being the bigger homestead and farm.  And as the paper I write for puts out its last edition today and the other publication I chose to stop writing for, and my next cookbook not coming out until fall, I am using all my creative writing energies here.  To entertain you folks, to record our happenings and make record of a life being well lived.  The only thing missing was bright colored photographs.  I have lovely pictures on here but they were taken from Doug’s ITouch which has no flash and that he was tired of me stealing.  So, out of the box last week twas not a piece of history from New Mexico, but a bright red, shiny, me-proof camera!  It is easy to use, has a brilliant flash, and takes marvelous pictures.  I can’t wait to use it to better record life on the mini-farm.  Close ups of chicken antics, lush vegetables falling off their vines, ideas and show and tells, bees in their natural habitat (or the one I made for them), plates of luscious food and wine, chronicles of a new baby…this is going to be fun.

This will be my last picture with the ITouch!  I have to use it to take a picture of the camera!  So, the photo journaling along with prose begins.  We always joke that my aunts are the paparazzi at family events; I now proudly join the ranks.

Now, awards time…(drum roll please)  Out of a hat, one name was drawn, and that name would be Liza!  Congratulations, you have won the February contest and a glorious basket of body products including my new soap!  March’s contest goes like this; What is one amazing tip you’d like to share?  Something to make mini-farming or housekeeping easier or more productive?  Can’t wait to read the entries!  The winner will win a free class at my home, a gift certificate to my shop, a free dance lesson, or a surprise gift from off the farm.  Your choice should you win!  Reply on the March Contest link. Good luck!

Four Star Farmgirl (meal planning and movie stars)

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We celebrated our anniversary this weekend with a stay at a four star hotel in downtown Denver.  It is a very old building with excellent service and two four star restaurants and lush surroundings.  We were standing in the foyer the other night looking at one of the menus.  A gentleman sat to our right.  He had passed us walking down the street earlier and now sat near us.  Doug whispers (probably a bit too loud), “Don’t you think that guy looks like a mix of Clay Aiken and Martin Short?”  He looked right at us.  I said, “No…maybe a little like Martin Short.”  Of course it turned out that it was Martin Short!  The weekend was accentuated by fancy restaurants with dime sized danishes for seven dollars, two ravioli for fifteen (a steal, I am sure), and very loud traffic, screaming homeless people, giggling drunk girls, and ongoing construction through paper-thin windows.  We did enjoy all the mouth-watering food, never having to open a door, delicious twelve foot windows to look out while sipping coffee and three days of doing nothing or whatever we pleased.  A fabulous weekend all together.  I type this in our beautiful hotel room as we prepare to go back to the country.  Back to peace and quiet.  I will have to start opening my own doors though once I get back.  I could be waiting on the porch for a long time.

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After weeks of celebrations and eating out and spending near fortunes (all worth it for fabulous food and company) it is time to get back to being a proper farmgirl.  And proper farmgirls meal plan.  Not meal plan like when I was first out on my own when it was imperative to do so because I was so broke.  Monday- Mac and Cheese, Tuesday- Hamburger Helper, Wednesday- Ramen Noodles.  Lord, how did we ever survive our twenties on meals like that?!  Now we meal plan because of health, finances, and because we desire good food!  No matter how good the food was at Cru or Kevin Taylor, it was probably genetically modified, not organic, and who knows where it came from.  I like to know what I am putting on the table!  Fresh, organic, grew it myself maybe (in the years to come, that will increase dramatically), homemade.  I love to eat like I am in a four star restaurant and I think for a hundred and twenty dollars I could have put on a better feast!  Infused oils, fine salts, fresh herbs, brightly colored produce, and homestyle cooking make life very nice indeed.  Add to that a glass of great wine (for less than twenty-five dollars a glass) and you are in business!

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However, after a long day of cleaning house, tending to business, taking care of animals, running errands, and a short attention span, if I don’t have a menu planned out, forget it…we’ll be eating Chinese food.   And I don’t really like Chinese food. I would much rather have my own cooking, I just need a bit of preparation.  I tried meal planning a week of meals in advance.  Beautiful, but by day eight if we didn’t get to the store we were out to eat.  I tried meal planning for three weeks.  Lost interest after two weeks.  So, two weeks of meals seems to be the magic number.  I have to drive to town to the health food store to obtain ingredients so every two weeks works for me.

I have begun checking out two library cookbooks each week and making my meals from there.  Mind you, I never follow recipes.  I can’t.  Too many variations and ways to make it better!  But I get fabulous ideas and general guidelines and each week is a new theme or book.  Cowboy cooking and slow cookers this week.  One pot meals and fresh Tex-Mex next plus plenty of personal inspiration.  Little House on the Prairie cookbook and Farmer’s Market Cooking the next.  I am determined for the next several weeks (okay, except the night we go to Evergreen for Doug’s birthday with our dear friends, Monte and Erik, for a ‘could die of happiness, the food is so freakin’ good’ meal) to make and stick to meal plans, eating at home every single night of the week, plus lunches and breakfasts at the table as well!  We will feel better, will not be overly full, will have lots of extra money to put into the homestead fund, dinner will always be available to children passing through or drop-in friends, and evenings at home are marvelous and fine.

Remember when you are meal planning to take some things into consideration: If you need to pack a lunch or dinner, make it picnic food.  If you know you will have a terribly busy day, plan for the slow cooker.  Have a nice mix of leisurely dinners like homemade pasta, and quick dinners like potato soup so that you are prepared.  Have plenty of ideas and ingredients to make impromptu dinners if you couldn’t get to the store after two weeks.  Eat plenty of colors even in the winter.  Kale, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, salads, squash, beets…beans of all sorts and lots of garlic.  Soup is fast and easy!  Leftovers are your friends for lunches.  Above all, enjoy the sensory and tactile experience of foods.  Enjoy the process of making it, serving it, eating it whether with others or alone.  Perfect the art of making sauce.  Sauce makes everything special.  Candlelight and good music a must!

The Long Farm Lunch

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They sat together comfortably at a long table in the vineyard under the trees.  The slight breeze was not menacing but sweet and lifted the warm air so that the scents of flowers all around could be inhaled.  Grapes hung heavy on the vines and the birds sang sweetly.  Friends laughed and poured another glass of wine.  Shared plates circled the table and the hours went by with companionship, rest, and food.  Crispy baguettes and fresh olive oil that taste of hay and summer.  Sliced ripe tomatoes and salty mozzarella……

These are the kind of things I read.  I read book after book of travel and ‘moving to Europe’ memoirs and drool incessantly over the pages then go back to my farm kitchen and do dishes.  The people in my books never do dishes.  They just eat.  It is amazing I am not a larger woman as I think I am perhaps part hobbit and love to eat…often.  My favorite memoirs take place in Europe because they do something that we here in America don’t do.  Rest.  On a workday.  With wine.  In the middle of the day.  Can I get an amen?

I grew up on peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches with chips and two small cookies.  Packed in my Muppets lunch box with a thermos of kool aide, lunch became less than exciting and to this day I do not eat peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches!  When my kids were little, packing lunches was my nemesis because they would not just eat sandwiches and my gourmet offerings could only go so far.  Still, planning lunches is difficult.  I can make the most elaborate dinners in minutes, never repeat a recipe, write book after book filled with delicious dinners but lunches…mais non.

I am doing well this year with my resolutions.  I am flossing regularly, doing yoga once a week, taking my daily herbal tinctures, and being nice.  I am adding to my list a new lunch routine.  I do hope you’ll join me.  Too often lunch is a rushed thing.  We just weren’t raised with any type of lunch knowledge save for back to back commercials of fast food.  So, here is my lunch plan.  I started it last week and it is lovely.  When I am at the shop, I am rushed so I still have to work on that, but on days I am home doing laundry and cleaning, I am Italian or French…sometimes Spanish.

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I prepare “peasant plates” of what my family calls mish mosh.  Romantic term; probably won’t make it into any of the books I read.  It is a bit of heavenly cheese, crackers, homemade bread, olives, homemade pickles, salad, leftovers, whatever inspires me.  Some dates, grapes, or some type of fruit.  I get bored very, very easily and one bowl meals make me wander off and forget to finish my food so the variety pleases me.

And now breaking all the rules.  I pour myself a half a glass of wine.  In the middle of the day.  I am tired of self inflicted rules.  I am tired of “appropriate”, who the heck made that up, expectations.  I did not have a sip of wine or alcohol until I was twenty seven years old.  Doug jokes that he drove me to drink.  My mother was quite serious and adamant that I would become an alcoholic if I had but one drink.  I believed that with all my being and religiously did not imbibe.  So when I got married and saw Doug had a beer and did not become an alcoholic I was shocked.  So, I had a bit of wine.  Lo and behold, I am not an alcoholic and that has taken me years of analyzing how many ounces of wine I put in the glass, how many did I have (usually one or less), how much did I have this week to see if I was becoming one.  Though it worked that I did not drink as a teenager or young adult, her plan has set silent boundaries in my head I seek to release.  I know my body and I know that a glass at lunch does not make me any less than brilliant.  I work much harder after a good rest.

So, great book in hand, dreaming of being in Italy, I read and nibble and sip.  Ahh, it is wonderful.  When all is said and done, I have only sat for thirty minutes but if feels like a two hour break for my mind and body.  When summer comes sneaking in, with all its busyness and tasks, I will sit beneath the Elm tree next to the lilacs and read, nibble, and sip my way to happiness…and maybe a few friends will come by and join me.  I’ll work on growing a vineyard.

Bored, Boards, and Gourmet Popcorn (with wine!)

This weekend we fell off the homesteading wagon.  It was fun, I won’t lie, but not very sustainable or good for the bank account!  I know we need to live a little but it got ridiculous.  We were getting bored around here, being winter and all, and no wood stove to curl up in front of, and kids and friends running through the house, so we went out.  I guess the problem for us is we go out and stay out!  Friday night we went to a four star restaurant and ended up at a cigar bar.  It was fabulous.  Saturday night a surprise birthday party and dinner across the state.  Sunday started at a coffee shop then we started reminiscing about our old Chinese restaurant we hadn’t been to in years and next thing we know, we’re out eating egg rolls.  We made a weak attempt at leftovers yesterday and ended up at Subway.  I don’t even like Subway!

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So, now about two bills short in the bank account and a new week ahead, I need to get back to the homesteading mentality!  I am desperately trying to save up for a homestead.  I want one that I can buy outright.  My entire being wants a homestead.  I start to lose hope but then keep dreaming again.  When we get to said imaginary homestead, we won’t have a full blown business like we do here and will have to pinch pennies in every way which I have been training myself to do.  I am learning to make everything we need.  So perhaps my winter evenings and weekends will be filled with a spinning wheel by the fire, the gentle hum of creating yarn.  Or sewing some clothing articles.  Or preparing a pot of soup.  Or making candles and soap.  Taking care of farm animals.  Right now it only takes two minutes to check on the chickens and I am done with my “farm” chores.

Game nights are a great way to keep your bootie on the homestead and it doesn’t cost a thing to have hours of raucous laughter and competitiveness.  Scrabble, Rummie, Chess, Balderdash, and Scattergories all wait in hopes of being played.  I need to do this more.  Doug and I alone can play a few games.  Friends can be invited over for a mad game of something or other.  Even the kids might want to play.  All alone?  Solitaire.

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What to serve?  Popcorn of course.  I do not mean microwave popcorn or crappy popcorn from Walmart.  I am meaning real kernels that came off of a real ear of corn.  A bag of organic popcorn kernels are less than three dollars at the health food store and provide lots of nights of popcorn. (Organic is important so that we don’t consume genetically modified corn.)  Now, here is where the culinary diva comes out of me.  Jazzing up popcorn so it becomes a meal.  It can be a meal, you know, corn is considered a grain and a vegetable and is high in lutein and many vitamins and minerals.  And our other food group, wine, is amazing with great popcorn.

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In order to achieve gourmet popcorn we need infused olive oils. I get mine from the Olive Tap ( http://theolivetap.com )because of the all the intense, yummy flavors that are ready at my fingertips in the cupboard.  I love the Porcini oil, or the Tuscan Herb, or who doesn’t love Truffle oil?  There is Orange oil, Sesame, Chipotle…and the list goes on.

You can also make your own.  Simply put 1 part herbs to 3 parts olive oil in a sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat for 20 minutes or until fragrant.  Swirl the pan often to keep the oil from burning.

Add a clove of minced garlic, 1 ts of basil, 1 ts of oregano, and a pinch of cayenne.  Or 2 Tb of rosemary, a pinch of thyme, and sesame seeds.  The combinations are endless and the result is spectacular.  Infused oils take the ordinary homestead meal to a five start restaurant while not breaking the bank!

popcorn bowl

Now for the popcorn combinations:

Truffle oil and parmesan with a touch of salt and a glass of Chardonnay

Garlic and Herb oil with sea salt and Pinot Noir

Sprinkle garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast (health food stores, tastes like cheese, high in B12), a pinch of chipotle and drizzle with plain olive oil and salt.  Cabernet Sauvignon can stand up to this one!

Sprinkle basil, parmesan, smoked sea salt, and garlic powder onto popcorn then drizzle olive oil over it.  Try a Pinot Grigio with this one or even a great red blend.

The combinations are endless, the results delicious!  The price….saving up for a homestead cheap.