Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review & Food: The Husband's Secret

First of all, let me give a big shout out to the nice lady from New York who recommended this book to me! Our chitchatting at the oyster bar really paid off - I've found a favorite new (to me) author.

At its core "The Husband's Secret" story is a modern version of Pandora's box. Cecilia finds a sealed envelope in the attic that is only to be opened upon the death of her husband. She, after much internal debate, opens it and the secret changes their lives. I'm not going to spoil the read by saying anymore but here are a few of my impressions:

I found this book very intriguing. The plot was intriguing, the writing (especially the thoughts of the characters) was witty and I loved all the Australian elements like Vegemite and how their seasons are so different from ours.

"It was the Easter Hat Parade, and the St. Angela's mothers were out in force, dressed up in honor of Easter and the first truly autumnal day of the new season."

And food references in books always interest me, like the pavlova Rachel makes for Easter. I attempted these and this is how they turned out. I quartered this recipe by Nigella Lawson. (Cooking note: Caster sugar is just really refined regular sugar. Just run it through your blender and it will be fine).

And the last line..."None of us ever know all the possible courses our lives could have and maybe should have taken. It's probably just as well. Some secrets are meant to stay secret forever. Just ask Pandora.

Have any of you read it? What did you think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

When we were looking at houses there were certain things we wanted. We wanted a fireplace, a backyard that would be good for the dogs and two bathrooms. We got all but that last one! And as a bonus, an enclosed garden in the backyard. This, for me, was the selling point on this house. It's got six raised beds, a compost bin and a rain barrel water catching thing. Gravel in between the beds keeps the weeds out.

I planted a few things the week after we moved in - about a month ago - and I've loved watching everything grow. We've had a few days of good, steady rain and it's really helped. Here are some pictures I snapped this morning.

I love that the fence keeps the dogs out. Particularly Scout. He just seems to want to go where he's not supposed to!

One of the tomatoes is starting to turn red. It seems like this has taken forever, but I think all the rain we've had the last few days had done the trick. The rain has also made the weeds grow. But at least they'll be easy to pull up!

Bell peppers

Celery and Tabasco pepper plants

I'm excited to make chili rellanos with this pablona pepper plant. The leaves on this plant aren't looking too healthy. I just got it a week ago at the farmer's market and the transplant was a little hard on it. 

Strawberries - these actually came up from what the previous owner planted. The strawberries have been so sweet and I've been eaten before I get to the back door. 

Basil, squash and some other kind of pepper. The squash does good until it flowers and then it seems like the whole plant just dies. Has anyone had this happen? Not sure what I should do! Also, not pictured, are runner beans and cucumber plants. 

As soon as the rain stops I'm going to prepare the back two beds for fall vegetables. According to a flyer from the Clemson Extension Service this between now and the middle of August is the time to plant for the Piedmont area. I'm hoping to try broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce and mustard greens. 

This is the look I get when he wants to go outside. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Grand Prix

Sunday afternoon we went to Tryon, NC for the $75,000 Grand Prix at the new international horse park. It was amazing! Like watching the Olympics up close. There were two rounds and to qualify for the final jump-off the riders had 83 seconds to jump the course without knocking any of the bars off the jumps. One bar knocked down is four faults, two down is eight faults, etc.

See the pretty mountains in the background?

Look at this jump! The spread (multiple jumps close together) is amazing - the horse really has to stretch out over the jump. It's also known as an oxer. In Grand Prix jumping (the highest level of show jumping) the spread can be up to 6 feet 7 inches. 

The riders were from Canada, Ireland, Germany and the US. The tags in the parking lot were from Ohio to Florida and we heard lots of different accents. The event was sponsored by an Irish company who handed out Irish beer. Ryan was impressed!

Of the 20 riders in the first round, only nine made it through clean to qualify for the jump-off. This round they moved much faster as they only had 54 seconds to complete the course. We moved seats at this point and were sitting right in front of one of the last jumps.

The jumps were over 5 feet tall. And many of the horse cleared them with room to spare. 

Ryan was rooting for this guy - Brian Walker on Tamara - they ended up getting second. 

This is the horse and rider team who won - Jordan Coyne on Lazaro, a Dutch warmblood. 

An overview look at Tryon International Equestrian Center about an hour away from Greenville. This was the first part of a huge resort that is being built here. The announcer said they only broke ground four months ago. We will definitely be going back!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Women on the 6th Floor

Don't you just love Netflix? At my mom's suggestion, I watched "The Women of the 6th Floor" on Friday night. A French boulevard comedy set in the 1960s, it follows Jean-Louis, a bourgeois businessman who discovers a happier world right above his head in the community of Spanish maids who live in his family's building.

His wife, Suzanne (who complains of her exhausting days of pedicures and bridge), gets upset with their longtime maid Germaine over the redecorating of Jean-Louis' recently deceased mother's room. Germaine quits and a new Spainsh maid, Maria, is hired. Apparently, having a maid from Brittany is no longer "in." 

It's almost a French version of "The Help." And as the person who always falls asleep during a movie, reading the subtitles actually kept me awake! Plus, I feel like some of the French I learned in high school and college came back to me. Definitely a feel-good, laugh-out-loud type of movie!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Have a great weekend

I've had the most fun this week helping teach a riding camp for three little girls at Sassy Stables. My first day was on Wednesday and as my parents were leaving my dad (dryly) commented that's its the first time my "fooling with horses" has not been completely in the red. Ha!


We've learned how to tack and untack the horses. Along with grooming and mucking out stalls.

Watching their confidence grow in their riding skills each day has been so rewarding. Now they have all mastered forward, stop, turn and the barrel racing pattern (in English gear!). 

And of course, we had to have a little water time. After painting and bathing Harley, we cleaned out a water trough and attempted to swim in it. The mud (and manure!) grossed us all out and we ended up setting up a sprinkler. 

Today is the last day and we are putting on a little show for their parents. So exciting!

I'm looking forward to a weekend at home. Ryan is working this weekend and I am hoping to get a few more projects done around the house. Mom and Dad brought a matching bookshelf to this one and it needs a few coats of paint. Then the last of the boxes should be able to be unpacked. Finally! 

We found a coffee table (for $8 at Goodwill) and I'm trying to decided to paint it or not. I'm thinking of jumping on the chalk paint bandwagon. Have you ever used Anne Sloan? Is it worth it or just as good to make your own? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mysost Cheese

Obviously, if I had my act together this would have been posted before Bastille Day (which was Monday, July 14!). But since that's obviously not the case, we'll just pick today to talk about cheese. Because, really, any day is a good day to talk about cheese.

My cheese making experiments have continued and after a disaster in December (where my cheddar cheese that I'd been aging for six months was spotted with mold), I've stepped back from cheddar until I can get a real cheese press. After much research and discussion with those who are in the know about cheese-making, my failure with the cheddar was in the cheese press rigged up from weights and other household objects.

So a few weeks ago I tried a new cheese with the whey (this is the leftover milk from making a fresh, white cheese). In the top photo, the cheese on the left is a fresh white cheese with herbs. You can find a how-to on that here. My cheese book says you can use the whey in lots of things like as a broth for soup or just pour it on your house plants as a fertilizer.

Or make mysost - a Norwegian cheese that is like goat cheese but made with cow's milk. I will be honest and say that I did not like the taste of this cheese (but I also don't like goat cheese). However, we took it to some friends' house and they both liked it. It has a sweet-sour flavor and the color can range from a light to a dark brown.

This is the whey that was left over from my marinated fresh cheese (in the top photo). As you bring the whey to a boil, foam will appear. Scrap this off and place in a bowl - save this in the fridge. 

Continue to boil slowly and uncovered over the lowest heat possible (that will keep the boil). When it gets down to about three quarters of what you started with, add back in the saved foam. You can also stir in heavy cream at this point. I started with the whey left over from a half gallon of whole milk and added in about half a pint of heavy cream. If you started the process with 2 gallons of milk (for the first cheese) you would use 1 to 2 cups of heavy cream. 

Once it starts to thicken, start to blend until the consistency is smooth and creamy (otherwise the cheese will taste gritty). 

Continue to cook over low heat and stir constantly. When it gets to a fudge-like consistency, place the pot in a sink of ice water. 

Keep stirring in the sink as it cools. Once it is cool enough to touch, pour into a mold. Traditionally this would be a rectangular mold but I used a ramekin. Just what I had! 

Let it cool and then turn out of the mold. It can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. 

There's not a whole lot of resources out there for cheese making. Basically, Ricki Carroll is the big know-how person in America. I would suggest her book "Home Cheese Making" over her cheese-making kits. I found the instructions in the kit to be lacking and had to refer to her book to get needed details. William-Sonoma makes kits that I found very easy to follow. The kits do come with the cheese cloth, thermostat and a mold, but you may already have these items in your kitchen.

Not a product endorsement - just my personal experience!

And, I know you may be wondering how I got from the French Bastille Day to Scandinavian cheese but I read this article about how to serve a cheese course, and it reminded me that I had these cheese pictures to share! I'm going to have to incorporate a cheese course the next time we have company - and I love that it comes after the main meal. Opposite of what I would think!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Parents' Visit

My parents just pulled out of the driveway and it is so bittersweet for me. We've had a wonderful visit and I can't wait for them to come back - I just wasn't quite ready for them to leave yet! Here are some of the fun things we've done...

Saturday evening we poked around downtown and ate at YAP! - a Malaysian restaurant.

On Sunday we went to church and later on watched the World Cup at Carolina Ale House. Ryan was able to join us before starting his first night shift. He's an expert at "the switch" - going from day shift to night shift - thanks to his years as a CVS overnight pharmacist. He is so much nicer exhausted than I am. Mom was pulling for Germany and Ryan Argentina. Dad and I were fair weather fans. I'm just glad someone finally scored!

Lu came over for coffee on the porch Monday morning and then we all went to the Farmer's Market. 

Monday afternoon we visited a few places like the library and the Confederate Museum where we saw lots of interesting things including the tallest Confederate's shoes. He was 7 feet 7 inches tall and was accused of standing on a stump during a battle. 

I don't have a picture of this but Monday night Mom and I went to Pace's dance cardio class at the YMCA. We were worn out! Pace is like Tracy Anderson on steroids. Two days later and I am still feeling the burn! Afterwards, Pace joined us for supper - it's been about 10 years since she saw my parents. She has always thought (and told) my dad that he looks like a young Client Eastwood. He loves Pace. 

Tuesday we ran some errands for me and I showed them the barn where I've been riding. We had lunch with my friend Jennie and then did a little shopping on Woodruff Road (I've yet to think of store that is not located on Woodruff Road!). 

On our last night we went to Sip - a rooftop wine bar downtown - and then to Charlie's Steakhouse. Both were fabulous! Ryan was able to join us before another nigh shift. Mom had two assignments before she could leave: fix a stuck drawer and rearrange my lazy Susan under the kitchen cabinets. (I get so frustrated with projects such as this - Ryan once asked me why I didn't have my mom's tenacity trait -and I have no idea but I'm thankful God gave me a mother and a husband with bucket fulls of tenacity. Maybe some of it will eventually rub off). She leaves me with a more organized kitchen and an unstuck dresser drawer so we now have placemats again! 

So thankful they came and can't wait for them to come back!