Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 and Forward

2013 has been a year of "hurry up and wait" followed by whirl wind changes.

After four years in a rented duplex in the historic Hudson's Bay neighborhood of Vancouver USA we moved house and garden to a 10th acre in a quiet neighborhood a bit to the north. Less train, airport and freeway noise.

Thanksgiving day we awoke to raccoon damage to our roof. Our amazing friends were there in a flash to patch the hole. We are incredibly blessed to have wonderful, skilled and generous friends.

We survived the yearly "Winter Holiday Music Party" (recital) with 65 people in attendance. They ate all the Spelt Snicker Doodles and Pumpkin Oatmeal cookies, played and sang beautifully and had a good time. Now I have to plan for the spring 2014 event.

My husband, Eric Tworivers is working at the Oregon Soap Company. Eric is truly a renaissance man. Master photographer, professional multi instrumental musician, singer/songwriter, and master food preserver, now learning about and creating an array of wonderful, organic products. He really makes my heart sing and is my reason for waking up every morning.

We were bitten by someone in our lives who is less than truthful and does not have our best interests at heart but we are heading into the New Year with hope.

I welcome your thoughts and comments. Have a very Happy and Productive New Year!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Free at the time of posting

This kindle book is free at the time of posting. Be certain that you check the price before you click as it does change, sometimes without warning.

Part of seasonal living is preserving the best of your harvest. This is a very handy book to help you get started.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Knitting today

What are you knitting today?
I'm working to complete Christmas projects and a couple of "just because" things like this adorable Torti Cat. Just right for little hands, the kittie can be made of scrap yarn from other projects. I found the pattern and complete instructions at I just realized I still have to make their tails!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Story of a Pumpkin

In September we bought this lovely TurksTurban Pumpkin at Bi-Zi Farms outside Vancouver, WA. My husband, Master Food Preserver Eric Tworivers taught an "Intro To Food Preservation" class that morning and we had time to shop and enjoy the farm store afterwards.  

I had planned to roast it and save the seeds to plant next season but almost immediately we found that life had other plans for us.

Shortly after the purchase we received news that we would have to leave our home and garden of five years. Imagine our surprise to find ourselves in what is so close to our dream home less than 2 months later.  

The pumpkin survived the short journey and change of scene and now is back on schedule just before the November Thanksgiving holiday.

At 2 ½ pounds this is not a big pumpkin but I have read that smaller pumpkins are sweeter. It is destined to become a sweet, savory “Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Bacon” or Pumpkin pie. 

What is it about pumpkins? They can take over our summer gardens with their verdant vines and symbolize the abundance of fall. Where do they come from? How many kinds are there? What are they all good for?

The origin of the pumpkin.
Pumpkins, from the genus Curcurbita are native to North America. The name, Pumpkin, is from the Greek “pepon” meaning large melon.

There are many kinds of Pumpkins some of which are:

American Tonda
Amish Pie
Baby Bear
Baby Boo
Baby Pam Sugar Pie
Big Rock
Big Max
Cotton Candy
Cushaw Green
Cushaw Gold
Full Moon
Halloweeen in Paris
Howden Biggie
Iron Man
La Estrella
Lil' Pumpkemon
Long Island Cheese
Marina de Chioggia
Musque de Provence
New England Pie
Old Zebs
One Too Many
Orange Smoothie
Queensland Blue
Red Warty Thing
Rock Star
Rouge Vif D'Etampes
Snack Jack
Turks Turban

The Turks Turban Pumpkin is thought to be one of the oldest pumpkin variety's available. It's light colored, orange flesh, is dense, slightly dry, with a mild, rich flavor that lends itself to many different uses. Ours became a rich, creamy custard pie. The main comment was “it really tastes like pumpkin” which I took to mean it was good. Our basic recipe:

Fresh Pumpkin Pie

1 medium pie pumpkin - 2 cups for pie, reserve the rest in the freezer
Pastry for single-crust pie
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh, finely chopped ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 can sweetened, condensed milk  

 In large bowl mash pumpkin.  Add eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and nutmeg; beat until smooth. Gradually beat in milk. Pour into crust.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees; bake 40-45 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

How long will a pumpkin last?
Kept in a cool (55 degrees F), dry place and out of sunlight a pumpkin might last for 8 – 12 weeks

Save Your Seeds
If it was a good, flavourful pumpkin you might want to try growing them yourself. After careful cleaning, I laid the seeds to dry in hopes of more pumpkin goodness for next year. Putting them on waxed paper at first keeps them from sticking to things. Then I transferred them to paper towel and put to rest in our chilly garage for 30 days after which we will sort out any moldy bits and store the rest.

I must confess, I didn't toast any of the Turks Turban seeds because we saved them all for next year. Toasted Pumpkin seeds are a healthy, crunchy treat either plain, or sweet or savory.

Enjoy the diverse, tasty and healthy world of pumpkins in breads, puddings, cakes, soup and so much more.

What are your favorite ways to prepare pumpkin or winter squash?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Living in Season

Live each Season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
~Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

48 degrees, wet and blustery. A typical late fall/early winter day where we live. I know many people long for year round summer but I have learned from experience (5 years in Hawaii) that I am happier living where there are distinct seasons. We live above the 45th parallel and our climate is quite mild but the change of seasons is clear.

Preparing for winter.

This winter we are in our own "new to us" home. A cement block house, built in the 50's on a 10th of an acre. A big change for us after many years of apartment living. The house is snug and much warmer than anticipated and we are enjoying the fireplace and the quiet neighborhood. After a week of sorting and putting away it is taking shape. Still don't know where some things are but it's getting closer.

Yesterday we began our 2014 garden. Re-purposed many of our moving boxes by spreading them on the backyard and covering with straw we found on craigslist. If the leaves ever fall off the trees we will rake them onto the pile and add a layer of goat or bunny manure. Soon the compost bins will be assembled in the same area. At some point a small group of chickens will be housed near by.

Husband is a WSU Master Food Preserver among other talents. The last of our big canning projects is waiting in the garage. A 40 lb. box of crisp, green Granny Smith Apples for pie filling.  The scent of cinnamon will fill the house.

As a child in the high desert of Oregon I dreaded the cold of winter and being trapped indoors by the weather. Now I look forward to long evenings knitting by the fire, playing music with our friends, sharing good food and conversation.

A simmering pot of soup will fill your home with warmth, while the herbs and spices tingle your senses. Spend a quiet evening with loved ones or gather your friends to share some seasonal delight.

Toscana Soup Recipe

1 pound Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
½ pound bacon, diced
2 ½ teaspoon garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
5 medium potatoes
4 cups fresh kale
1 cup heavy cream


Brown and fully cook sausage; drain and set aside. Peel and dice potatoes; set aside in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning. Thinly slice fresh kale; set aside.

Cook diced bacon over medium heat in 8 quart saucepan until slightly crispy. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent. Drain excess grease. Stir in garlic and cook one minute.

Add chicken broth, water and potatoes. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer for 25 minutes until potatoes are tender. Stir in kale, cream and sausage. Cook for five more minutes. Serve warm. Freezes and reheats well. Serves 6-10, depending on how hungry they are and if you serve it alone or with other items like a salad.

If using a crock pot, wait to add the cream just before serving. If cream is on sale, buy the larger container and freeze it in ice cube trays. When frozen put into freezer bags and label with contents and date.

Here is a great cookbook for this time of year.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Beans: Survival and Good Eats.

In the year 410 the Roman Emperor Honorius  responded to a request for help with the “Rescript of Honorius” telling the Romano - Brittains to see to their own defense. The years following the withdrawal of the Roman Legions from western Europe have been described as the “Dark Ages” and in many ways that holds true. Cities and roads crumbled and were abandoned. Constant local warfare made travel dangerous. Farmland reverted to wilderness. Learned skills were often forgotten in the struggle for survival.

Agricultural decline, the end of international trade and a growing lack of iron for tools led to less available food and higher prices causing a drop in nutrition among the common people. This drop in nutrition lead to a hungry populace, small and weak, subject to disease. “Underpopulation combined with under cultivated land left nearly everyone undernourished.”. (It Was the Bean that Set the Pulses Racing by Umberto Eco)

In the years leading up to the first millennium several new techniques improved agriculture. Iron horse shoes, a more efficient plow, and the promotion of planting chickpeas by the emperor Charlemagne around 800 CE.

Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, have been cultivated for 1000's of years with finds of 7500 year old remains in the middle east. One tablespoon of chickpeas yields 2.5 grams of protein and many vitamins, minerals and fiber. As the cultivation of beans and legumes spread throughout Europe the working people began to benefit from a more nutritious diet. Their health improved, the population grew and new art, architecture, science, writing and thought blossomed.

Today beans and legumes are a staple food in most parts of the world. In the United Stated most people do not rely on beans for their daily diet but we are fortunate to enjoy them in abundance. There are over a thousand different kinds of beans throughout the planet. Beans are the only food that occupies two slots on the USDA food pyramid: protein and vegetable. They are versatile and adaptable to many herbs and seasonings.

Our family eats beans a couple of times a week. We particularly enjoy beans with a Native American heritage: Anasazi beans and Black Turtle beans.

According to stories, in the 1950's archeologists in the Pueblo region of the desert southwest found a sealed clay pot with a few beans in it. Some of the beans were sprouted and the modern Anasazi bean entered the world. Another story reports that the beans were found growing wild around pueblo ruins.
Either way we enjoy these mild white and purple beans.

Black Turtle Beans have been grown in Mexico and Central America for around 7000 years. The earthy flavor and dense meaty texture of these little black beans make an interesting addition to many dishes.

Over the years we have developed our own favorite chili using a blend of Anasazi and Black Turtle Beans. We soak about two pounds of dried beans over night with a little apple cider vinegar in the water. Rinse them thoroughly, bring to a boil, drain and put into a crockpot. Add a sauted onion, about a pound of browned Chorizo sausage, one pint home made chicken broth, a little black coffee, 8 ounces of chopped green chilies without seeds and membrane, salt, pepper and a good dash of ground chipotle peppers. Add as much water to cover the beans as needed and cook on low for at least 12 hours. Eat hearty and pressure can the rest in pints for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (at sea level). Store in a cool, dark place and enjoy for weeks to come.

Beans. Good eats.

Source material.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Eating in season.

Yesterday one of my husband's coworkers asked "Is canning season over"? After some thought we realized that canning season is never really over. It changes and often seems to slow down but with our seasonal eating and careful shopping there is always something on the "to do" list.

There are many websites that will help you discover what is in season in your area.  Epicurious has a great interactive map that will show you what is in season in your area along with shopping tips and recipes.
Eat the Seasons at includes meat and seafood.

Shopping and eating locally and seasonally means that we are able to save money, support our local providers and have very tasty food. When we come across something we enjoy at a good price we buy in bulk, prepare, preserve and stock our pantry. After a day of work we are able to come home and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

What do we can? Fruits, vegetables and several home made "fast foods". Fast food? Here a few main dish examples: Black and Anasazi Bean Chili, Taco meat, Italian meatballs, Deviled Ham (usually after a mid winter feast), Sloppy Joe filling, several kinds of soup (based on home made chicken or beef broth) and an assortment of sweet/savory condiments. All this activity helps us eat healthy, local, nutrient dense food and keep our costs down. (meat products, food with meat in addition and low acid foods must be pressure canned)

How much does all this canning cost? When we decided to start canning and preserving our food we knew that we would have to continue to be thrifty. Thrift does not mean doing with out. It means being creative. As one friend said "Sometimes it's the joy of the hunt". Yes, we are hunter gatherers, only our territory has expanded. Now we hunt thrift stores, Craigslist and garage sales. We have found our equipment at all these places. When people realize you are canning and preserving food you may become the recipient of housecleaning. We have received jars and canners when someone has downsized, found steam juicers and canning kettles at thrift stores and on Craigslist.

When you decide to start canning you will find that there is information everywhere.  Practical information and best safety practices can be found at your local Cooperative Extension Office. There are many books about canning. One of the best and recommended by the USDA is The Ball Blue Book which should be available at your local bookstore and online. Be sure to get the most recent publication.

"Will canning take over my life?" It does not need to. In winter we spend 2 or 3 hours, twice a month and enjoy the results for several weeks. In peak harvest season things get a bit more intense with the kettles simmering throughout the week.

Canning and preserving food has become an important part of our life. My husband has worked hard and received his "Master Food Preserver" certification through WSU Cooperative Extension and is teaching others how to preserve food at local farm stores and super markets. He is a great teacher who loves sharing the joy of really good, local food.

When it's cold, rainy and dark I go to the pantry and pop open a jar of lovingly preserved produce.  It's like opening a bottle of sunshine. All those rich summers flavors come rushing in and the dark of winter recedes.

Happy canning!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Aromatherapy: handle with care

Aromatherapy, the use of essential plant oils for health care and pleasure is an increasingly popular technique in alternative and complimentary health care. As a certifed Aromatherapist I have used and enjoyed essential oils for several years and taught classes on the safest, best practices.

There are many books available and more places than I can count in the world wide web with information on aromatherapy. Some are good sources but others are very inconsistent with safe and best practices. The text that I have used for my classes and have found to be very practical is "Aromatherapy for Bodyworkers" by Jade Shutes and Christina Weaver.

This text is not just for bodyworkers (massage therapists, reflexologists, etc) but for anyone interested in the science of aromatherapy.

You also need to carefully consider what brand of EO you purchase. Look for cold expressed, or steam distilled Essential Oils - not fragrance oils. Also consider the source. Does the label tell country of origin? Is it organic? Due to possible pollution of the soil and water in many parts of the world this is needed information.  There are many honest purveyors of essential oils but you do need to do your part in researching the product you pay for.

One source you should consider staying away from is Young Living. These oils are widely available and sale people are everywhere but the founder of the company has a very unsavory reputation and the quality of the product is in doubt. From more information, please go to
Take time to be an educated consumer.

What Essential Oils should you have? We keep Lavender, Tea Tree, Rose Geranium, and Eucalyptus on hand. Lavender and Tea Tree EO's can be applied neat and are kept in the kitchen for quick a. pplication to cuts and burns. They are also great for cleaning because they are both anti funal and anti bacterial. Rose Geranium is analgesic, antiseptic and helpful as an anti depressant. All Essential Oils with the exception of Lavender and Tea Tree must be mixed with a carrier oil: olive oil, jojoba, walnut, etc... Each oil has it's own helpful quality. I generally use olive oil because good quality is usually readily available and I like the anti inflammatory properties. As you study individual EO's you will decide which to keep in your personal kit.

What are good, safe sources of EO's. Locally I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs Your local Fred Meyer and Wild Oats has a "natural" or "health" department where some EO's are available. Ask questions and do your research before buying as EO's of good quality can seem expensive. It is good to know that a little bit will go a long way.

As with all natural products Essential Oils have a shelf life limit. The general rule is 2 years. After that time the oils may still smell good but have lost some of their medicinal properties.

Can you make your own Essential Oils? The quick answer is "yes", but... you need the proper equipment.
A great tutorial is available here.

We make infused lavender and calendula oils for salves and infused vinegars for cleaning and cooking.

Interested in learning more about the sense of smell? Read here:

The history of Aromatherapy:

René-Maurice Gattefossé is considered the founder of modern Aromatherapy. His text "The First Book on Aromatherapy" has been translated to English and is available at

Essential oils are a pleasure to use and can be helpful in maintaining your optimum health. The more knowledge you have the better off you will be. The continuing study of Aromatherapy and Herbalism can part of a happy, healthy life.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cast Iron Love Affair

 I, as many others did, grew up in the 50's. My mother hated cooking and was not particularly good at it. Her apple pie was great but we ate a lot of boiled beans with catsup and fried meat. Fried to shoe leather actually. I remember one year, I must have been five years old, that it seemed all we ate was fried venison and boiled beans. I couldn't eat either of those things for years.

Early on she cooked in cast iron pans, with lots of complaining as to the weight. In the 60's she got cast aluminum and was thrilled that they were so light. Near the turn of the century I learned that aluminum might be a contributor to Alzheimer's disease though now that theory is in doubt. When I became her care giver I got rid of those aluminum pans and transitioned back to cast iron and have never been sorry.

Most of the pans we have were acquired at thrift stores and some of them were in a very bad state. Rusty and dirty, pretty ugly but under the grunge the pans were still good. Sarah at  Frugal By Choice Blogspot has a wonderful tutorial on refurbishing and caring for cast iron.

Image from Frugal By Choice
We, husband actually, have successfully used her methods and we are happy with our "nonstick" cast iron and use it all the time. Yes, I am developing great upper body strength hefting these babies around but they are so reliable and cook so beautifully that I doubt I would ever trade them in on the "next new thing".

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your expertise on cast iron care.

If you see a rusty cast iron pan and it calls to you don't hesitate. Grab it, take it home, and give it a good cleaning and conditioning. It really is a kitchen work horse and will be in your service for years. You may even need to put it in your will!

Friday, October 11, 2013

What's Cooking?

Another crispy fall morning here in the Pacific NW. A good day for a big pot of soup.

One of our favorite recipes is based on the Hearty Black Bean Soup in the Fix It and Forget It Cookbook.

I double the recipe and cook it on the stove in our 5 quart cast iron Dutch Oven from Lodge Cast Iron. We have a hearty dinner with Blue Cornbread and husband (Master Food Preserver Eric Tworivers) pressure cans the rest to stock our pantry shelves.

Black beans are highly nutritious. High in fiber - one cup of black beans provides 4 grams of soluble fiber - are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients and 15 grams of protein.  They can be the base for several, hearty, healthy recipes.

As to the cast iron, Lodge is an amazing company, founded in 1896 in South Pittsburg, Tennessee and still going strong.

Over the years we have collected several pieces at thrift stores that are in everyday use. From tiny skillets just right for an egg; to a big, two burner griddle we use and love them.

Someday I hope to find a cast iron, stove top waffle maker.
They are scarce so if you know of one for sale, please let me know! This tool weighs a ton so I will not be shopping on Amazon for one.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Comfort Food with a Kick

Last week I made a reduced Balsamic Glaze to use in cooking.

Today I will put it to use for Balsamic-Glazed Root Vegetables.  I made only a half the recipe because this is a test run to see if we "really, really" like it.

Fresh from the oven.
Snapshot by Me

We plan to serve it with crispy, fried talapia. Seems that they will be complimentary.

We are pretty much eating out of our pantry this month as we prepare for the big move. I'm getting anxious. I want to plant the garlic for next spring and get the winter veg into the ground! Soon, I know.
Everything happens in it's own time for a reason and ,generally, waiting makes the result much sweeter. So I'm learning about patience, again. One of the hardest lessons and one I seem to revisit frequently.

As we come into the dark time of the year our body seems to crave the foods that store the energy of the sun and the warmth of summer soil. What is your favorite fall vegetable recipe?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Knitting: Kinder, Gentler Lingerie

I learned to knit when I was 5 years old. My father's cousins wife taught me because I was unhappy that I was "too young" to start school with the rest of the children in our small ranching community. After many years absence, partly due to a 4H leader who didn't understand left handed knitters, I returned to the pleasure of knitting. Socks, scarves, hats, all the regular things. Then I discovered a series of wonderful free patterns - the internet is an amazing source - and embarked on...lingerie knitting.
The Bra and  Tap Panty Ensemble available at are designed by Karen Stockton .

This summer I found two cones of all cotton yarn at a thrift shop. Super soft and pearly looking they are perfect for this kind of project.

The other completed project was a free pattern when I found it but it is now included in a book of patterns which are at a very reasonable price.  The French Lace Camisole pattern was easy to follow and a very satisfying "first try" at lace trim. You can find it with other all cotton projects at

It's amazing what can  be done with two sticks and a big piece of string!

Knitting can be creative, satisfying and it's a great survival skill. We won't be cold as long as we can get our hands on fiber and as to that we have further plans involving a Turkish drop spindle and the three weaving looms that some how have come to our home. Oh, and plans for a couple of Angora bunnies once we are settled in the new house.

What are you knitting today?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

As you can tell I've been away from the blog for quite awhile. Life happens and sometimes changes get in the way as we learn to adjust. Now, I'm back!

After spending 5 years in our rented duplex in the historic Hudson Bay neighborhood we will be moving to our own house in about 3 weeks. I've never enjoyed moving but the end result will be worth it. As we prepare we are canning from the current garden, teaching classes in food preservation, playing music and keeping our open mics going along with our "day jobs".

The "new" (to us) house is a sturdy concrete block in an older neighborhood 2 miles north of where we are now. Part of the immediate challenge will be getting the large plants and trees into the ground as quickly as we can and getting the fall/winter garden going. This house actually has a garage so we will have our freezer with us rather than 3 miles away.

Good things are happening and the adventure begins.