Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Banana Bread - A Good Start to Your Morning

Everyday up here needs to start with a substantial breakfast. I guess because there's just too many chores that need to be done between breakfast and lunch. Cereal during the week is ok, but a little something extra sure rounds it off. And I'm one never to let things go to waste - especially ripening bananas.

This recipe is very old from the first cook book I ever bought as a new wife. It was compiled by a Lutheran church group of women in Missouri - no doubt some terrific cooks! I've made a couple of minor changes to it and it has always been a treat for my family.

1/2 cup (one stick) softened butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripened bananas (ripe not spoiled!!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk (this is what makes the cake!)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups chopped pecans (optional)

First mash up the bananas really well. Cream butter, sugar, eggs and add to bananas and mix until light and fluffy. Mix in all the remaining ingredients.

Spray two loaf pans or one 11" x 11" pan with PAM. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 - 60 minutes. Since ovens vary, keep an eye on your bread. Remove when center is done. I usually do the finger test and see if it springs back in the center. But, you can also stick a cake tester in the center to see if it comes out clean.

I like to cut it into individual size servings and wrap and freeze them for later in the week. Since we have to be careful of our power usage being off the grid, I always double the recipe to make twice as much. If you're gonna make a mess, make a big one and make full use of your oven.

Hope you enjoy this delight. Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What Is It With Full Moons?

I've come to the conclusion that people are right when they say that all kinds of weird things happen during a full moon. This morning around 5:20 a.m. we woke up in a daze to a strong jolt and what sounded like an extended sonic boom. Mac (our other dog that you haven't met yet) leaped off the bed barking and I asked my husband, "was that an earthquake?" Edwards AFB isn't all that far from us and we experience sonic booms throughout the week, but never this early in the morning. "I think it was," he said. But the strange thing was that the ceiling fan pully chains weren't even swaying. Apparently, it wasn't the "S" wave style earthquake that we're accustomed to. (does one ever get accustomed to earthquakes?)

With that I turned on the computer and visited the USGS site and sure enough, it was reporting a 3.8 magnitude quake 10 miles from us. Tehachapi sits on a fault called the White Wolf and the town was pretty much demolished back in 1952. That seems to always be in the back of my little head.

With that we went ahead and started our day. Later, we were all working in the garden when I heard this strange sound. Immediately, I recognized it and yelled, "run!" At that point my husband and son also realized what was descending upon us - a swarm of bees was flying right through our property. Rick ducked low behind his little Ranger/4 wheel dohickey and Gaelan and I ran towards the well. Fortunately for us, they were well above our heads and just kept on truckin' - flying (bees don't truck).

It was at that point that I decided it was safer to stay inside and just make some socks.

Since I didn't catch a snapshot of the earthquake or the swarm of bees, you'll have to settle for the socks that were just finished. Think I'll call 'em my "full moon socks."

Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, June 25, 2010

John Wayne...Chisum...Hollywood...Tahnee Mara...

I have to tell you a little secret...........my husband is a HUGE John Wayne fan. He must own practically every movie he's ever made and could probably recite the dialogue of each from memory. One of his favorites is "Chisum." In it, John's niece comes to visit and one evening they're out on the porch and a wind begins to stir............she wraps her shawl more snugly around herself and shivers slightly. John says, "Tahnee Mara." She looks at him like, huh? He explains, "the Indians call it Tahnee Mara..............lonely wind."

My husband always loved that name and what it meant and said, "someday if I ever own a little piece of land, I'm gonna call it Tahnee Mara Ranch." (first of all, let me explain that we don't live on a ranch! Less than 2 1/2 acres doesn't constitute such a title) That being said, I asked him how it's spelled - he didn't know. To the search engines I went. Seems back in those movie days, Hollywood was famous for making such words up! According to this information, there's no such word in the Indian language. My husband was bummed to say the least. But, the good news was that I did find out the spelling and it's still a great name and now a great little tale!

Our little off grid home site had a name - Tahnee Mara Ranch (taw-nee mar-a) - lonely wind.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mrs. Crumpet's Woolen Shop

Yesterday I rode down to Bakersfield with my husband and did several errands. It makes for a long day, but it was worth it. Groceries are so much cheaper than up here. We decided to take an ice chest for all the cold food and that worked out well - especially since temps down there are in the mid 90's now. We even managed to have a nice lunch at Famous Dave's. YUMMY!

When we finally got home, I quickly placed the finished pillow design of Mrs. Crumpet's Woolen Shop on our Etsy and Ravelry sites, which is now for sale.

It's another day at the Farmer's Market today. One vendor brings her ollalie berries and I may just have to get some to make a crisp. My guys always love it.

Have a great Thursday out there!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Day for Socks

Looks like it's gonna be a tad bit warmer today - that means some serious time outdoors. But first, thought I'd crank out a pair of socks before this day really gets going.

Most knitters are curious how a sock machine works - especially when it comes to the heel and toe. Unlike a hand knitted sock, heels and toes are made the exact same way on a circular sock machine. They both form a gusset and when the sock is completed, the toe folds to the top where it is grafted together like a store bought sock.

As you can see by the photo, when the sock first comes off the machine, there's waste yarn at each end. Before removing this yarn at the toe, I divide the stitches in half, starting at the side edges and place them onto two needles. Then the waste yarn is removed and the sock is ready for a kitchener stitch to close it up.

Piece of cake!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mrs. Crumpet's Pillow

Just finished the Intarsia pillow that has Mrs. Crumpet's woolen shop on the front. Next up is to redo the chart on Adobe Illustrator. With some "oldies" music playing, it'll be a great way to spend my afternoon. Hopefully, we'll get this design up on Ravelry and Etsy by Wednesday.

Time to get some breakfast going for my hubby and son, then a bit of tinkering in the garden.

Oh, forgot to mention how the Farmer's market went this past Thursday. We sold a pair of socks and some yarn and met lots of very nice people. But still, I had to ask myself if it was a full moon - one man walked by with his dog and he tried to lift his leg on my tablecloth (the dog not the man), another man strolled by with this HUGE parrot on his shoulder and then this woman walked past my booth with her reindeer on a leash. (yes, a reindeer - as in Prancer and Dancer)

Enjoy your Sunday.................

A Dog Named Bo...........a fairy 'tail' ending

Rick was the first one that Bo learned to trust. (our son is learning disabled and I have a feeling that Bo picked right up on that) I had yet to win him over. One morning I brought donuts to the crew and apparently in the process, discovered Bo's one weakness. He absolutely loves donuts or at least the smell of them. When I pulled one out for him to try, he literally started jumping straight up and down! (for all you dog lovers, I assure you that I don't make a habit of giving him donuts) And for the first time, a tail wag emerged.

Next up, would he let me touch him? I gently touched his shoulder and started rubbing it - a lot of serious swallowing followed. It was obvious that someone had abused him and he did not trust people putting their hands on him. Nothing like a good challenge and each day I made an effort to let him know that we don't do things like that to our dogs. The trust slowly came for all of us - my husband was the last one that Bo brought into his small world.

Not knowing about his health, we decided he needed vaccinations. Now, this isn't the kind of dog that you can just waltz into any vet's office with. So, we found one out in the desert that seemed a perfect match. We did take precautions and placed a muzzle on him and of course he was terrified the whole time. He was updated with all the necessary shots and given a new med for parasites since he had feasted on the wildlife up here.

Construction came to a close and Bo became a member of our family. Not knowing a dog's history and what he is really capable of can be scary. Trust was a two way street.

Bo has come to love the three of us dearly and would protect us with his life. By day, he is the "keeper" of his property - by night he is a "wuss" that sleeps in the laundry room and insists on being covered up with his blankie.

One day a visitor stopped by and asked if Bo was a Lousiana Catahoula Leopard dog. A what? We always thought he was a mix with some Lab/Shepherd and whatever in him. Reading about this breed and seeing pictures looked mighty convincing - especially their behavior. Apparently, their play can get out of hand very quickly and you must take care. Yep, that sounded like Bo.

I'm afraid that he'll always be "under construction" - my greatest wish for him is that one day he'll forget the abuse that he suffered.

Each morning at 5:30 he leaves his "bedroom" with a bounce in his step all the while his tail is wagging. I'm sure he says to himself daily, "I'm a lucky dog!" He now has meaning in his life and in the process has taught us great lessons in trust.

Indeed, a fairy "tail" ending.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Dog Named Bo ( a two part story)

We first caught a glimpse of him in October 2007. From a distance, he looked like a wild dog or coyote and would never come close to our RV. Obviously, he'd been dropped off up here and abandoned - there's a lot of that happening now, sad to say. He looked thin and in need of food and water, so we set some out each day for him. At first, we'd put it further down the road since he wanted no part of us, and eventually set it on the outside of our fencing where we could get a better look at him. At that point, we started calling him Hobo.

One day my husband tried to stand nearby while he was eating, but was greeted with growls and teeth. Obviously, he'd been up here awhile and was probably on the verge of going wild. One dog expert we spoke to said that these dogs usually survive on squirrels and rabbits.

When the first snow hit, we worried about him and how he'd manage. We contacted a dog sanctuary further up in Old West Ranch, but she was 'full up' and said they couldn't take him. We knew the dog pound was an instant sentence for him. Fortunately, we were able to borrow a doggy igloo and hoped he'd use it. When all our pipes in the RV froze and we had to leave for the campground, it broke our hearts to leave him up here alone. But, each morning we'd bring him hot food and clean water, hoping he'd survive the winter.

When the first 6 inch snow hit overnight, we feared the worst. We drove up in our 4 wheel drive Jeep and I yelled "Hobo" as I always did. No response. I tried again, and then suddenly I saw movement from inside the igloo. He stuck his head out from behind the blanket that we had secured over the entrance. He'd survived the frigid night.

We kept this routine up throughout the long winter and with each delivery of food, we'd purposely stand closer and closer and talk to him. As the days slowly warmed and crews arrived for construction, Hobo started hanging out inside our property. Our son Rick, enjoyed being dropped off during the day to watch all the activity. Hobo seemed to gravitate to him.

He never wagged his tail or allowed a gentle touch, but happily ate the food that was provided. He slowly came closer and closer to us. One day, I had my pickup truck door open and was waiting for Rick. Hobo came up to the truck and looked inside. For some reason I asked, "do you want to go for a ride?" He jumped inside! Now, I have to tell you, this dog with his very unusual coloring and appearance is one scary looking dog. He jumped into the back seat and as far away from me as possible and didn't budge. All the way into town, I kept praying he wouldn't go wacko on us. Amazingly, he was well behaved and seemed to enjoy the ride. Before going back to the campground, we swung by the property, opened the door and out he jumped. Not even a thank you for the ride!

The story continues tomorrow.......................

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What To Do With All That Squash................

Weekends always entail extra chores up here on the mountain, which means we like to start our day off with a hearty breakfast. I'm a firm believer in "nutritional punch." When my kids were small, I always did my best to sneak in things with extra goodness. (My daughter never fell for it.)

And with summer fast approaching, we ask ourselves, "what will we do with all this squash?" I found a new outlet for it.................

Add it to some fried potatoes! YUMMO

Here's my basic formula:

3 to 4 medium sized potatoes sliced up fairly thin
1 whole onion chopped (sweet or purple works)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 chopped cloves of garlic
some fresh parsley from your garden or dried is fine (adds nice color)
a few fresh finely chopped basil leaves if you'd like (totally optional)
1 or 2 chopped zucchini (AKA squash)
and toss in some fresh snipped chives, too

Put a good dose of olive oil to cover entire bottom of fry pan

Add all the ingredients, place a lid on top to help cook things and stir frequently.
Cook until the veggies are nice and done and browned to perfection.

My guys have made this side dish mandatory every weekend now. Add some eggs and buttermilk pancakes and you'll probably be able to skip lunch!!!

And even with all those weekend chores, do something just for yourself - like knitting!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Doris" Goes to the Market

"Doris" has a busy day ahead. She'll be crankin' out at least 3 socks and then will pack up for her trip to the Farmer's Market tomorrow. Being 85+ years old, she always draws a crowd. The one question that is always asked, "How long does it take to make a pair of socks?" The answer - about 3 hours and that includes closing the toes by hand (kitchener st).

Packing her up carefully is always a challenge. Thought I'd steal (I mean borrow) my husband's lunch carrier thingy. Doris's moving parts will be removed and wrapped separately and she'll be snug as a bug in a towel. Being made of cast iron, it's no easy feat toting her all about. But, to see the smiles that she brings is worth it. Most people have never seen an antique sock machine AND one that has been refurbished and once again producing lovely, lovely socks!

Enjoy your day and don't forget to find time for some knitting....................

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Scarf or Very Long Socks?

If you guessed socks, you're wrong! It is indeed a scarf. Here's two that I finished over the weekend and the other halves of them are hanging on the back of the door. There's no great formula for making these. I saved oodles of time and made them on "Doris" our antique sock machine, but you can also hand knit them. Use your favorite sock pattern and any weight yarn. Just make the leg as long as you want it to be from the center back neck down, then proceed as usual with the sock portion. Make another piece that's identical and then graft them together at the top. The only thing you have to be mindful of is that they're not twisted when you do this.

Last week at the Farmer's Market I sold one that was hand knitted. They always seem to get lots of attention and are perfect for those of us who love making socks AND scarves. You're sure to bring a smile if you knit these for a friend.

Don't forget to find some knitting time today.............................

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Free Entertainment

There's just nothing better than sitting out in the fresh mountain air and watching the gliders take off just to our east and go right over our heads. I'm sure they're sick of watching me wave like a fool to them, but it's so amazing to watch.

We have phenomenal lift conditions here that are triggered by the Tehachapi Mountains to our south, the Sierra Nevada Mountains to our north and the great Mojave Desert to our East. (Jeesh, I sound like I work for the Chamber of Commerce)

It's said that even the space shuttle pilots have trained here because the shuttle basically is a glider.

I bet you're wondering if I've gone up in one. Not in your life!!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Servicing the Plumbing

Once a year we have all our water systems checked and multiple filters replaced. Now, I'm married to a really handy kind of guy, but even all of this is beyond him. (or at least that's what he tells me) So, we make the phone call to Bakersfield and tell "Mike" that we'd like to schedule a service call - always reminding him to wait until he has another call-out in the same area. That way we only pay half the "drive-up" fee.

Our well produces excess iron, lead and aluminum and these metals need to be stripped. Multiple filters and a water softening system need to be in place. Most of this is kept inside our pump house that sits adjacent to our water tank.

And as one final backup, we have a reverse osmosis system under our kitchen sink that ensures our drinking water is safe. "Webster" defines this as "a diffusion through a semipermeable membrane typically separating a solvent and a solution that tends to equalize their concentrations." In my terms - it just takes out all the crud!

This is all done on a yearly basis (although my husband does change one of the filters every 6 weeks) and I figure it's our "water bill." And with water costs spiking in California, we've got a great rate!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Farmer's Market Day

Today is Thursday - that means it's Farmer's Market Day. My friend and I were trying to decide if it's Farmer's or Farmers'. In any case, I'm a vendor! Last week it was quite windy and I found myself keeping one hand around a leg of the canopy. Can you imagine if that thing took off in the wind? Today we're under a high wind warning. Should I bring some cement with me?

Actually, the decision was made to just leave the darn thing home and just set up a table and our two shelves. I even thought about taking "Doris" our antique sock machine, but I'm afraid that if there's any blowing dust, it wouldn't be healthy for her. She's quite persnickety. (now, the word really might be pernickety because "Webster" referred me over to it as the adj. But, persnickety has a better ring to it) No debates please!!!

Cross your fingers that we don't fly away...................

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Intarsia.....really knitting off the grid

Don't let Intarsia knitting fool you. It's more a puzzle than anything else. And if you love puzzles, you'll love this form of knitting. Many knitters think that if they forget to twist the yarn ends, there will be a hole. Well, yes, that's certainly true. But, everything is "fixable" including the holes. Don't even worry about how the front looks until the piece is totally knitted. It's at that point that you tighten and weave in all the ends. Slowly but surely, it will come together. As with anything else, practice is the key.

This is a new design for our "Crumpet and Tea" collection. It's a pillow that will have a picture of Mrs. Crumpet's woolen shop on it. The little balls of yarn in the store's window will be made with french knots - kinda adds a 3-D effect to the artwork.

Be sure to check back so that you can see the progress being made.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A New Day in Tehachapi

Today's agenda includes laundry, a quick touch-up to the house and then some serious knitting. If you do nothing else each day, at least toss in a few rows!

Yesterday we added a new pattern to our Etsy store. It's a foot stool covering with a picture of little "Tea" on it. If you love Intarsia knitting or are thinking of trying it, this might just be a good starting point for you.

Time to get this day moving.......................

Friday, June 4, 2010

Laundry Day

Living off the grid teaches you more about electricity use than you probably wanted to know. If there's no wind, you don't generate power and your generator is more than likely to start up. When that happens, it hits you right in the pocket book! And at today's prices for diesel fuel, it hits hard.

So, I have to do a balancing act when doing laundry. If there's no wind, hold off a day or two to hang out the laundry. If it's too windy, you're likely to watch your clothes blow away. And at all cost, don't use the dryer. That's an instant ignition for the generator.

Now, another thing I've learned about hanging out clothes up here..........HIDE YOUR UNDERWEAR in the middle lines. I mean, it IS visible from the street afterall! Your husband's "undies" can go on the outer lines, because you'll have it all brought back inside before he gets home........he'll never know!

Not only will you save tons of energy by drying your clothes the old fashioned way, you'll get to experience how your grandmother did her laundry AND have the sweetest smelling clothes ever!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Sock Business?

It's amazing that you can find your passion while surviving a 5+ month stint in an RV. But, it happened. Who would've ever thought that I'd fall in love with making socks?

I owe it all to my husband. One day our daughter came up for a visit and we got to talking about businesses and all the tourists that visit Tehachapi. My husband blurted out, "why don't you two start a sock company?" Now running a small business was no stranger to me - I owned a small yarn shop for 5 years. And Cheryl is quite busy herself managing a major retail store AND raising three little boys. Could we do this?

I'd been admiring antique sock machines on the internet for years. How hard could it be? We did our homework and decided on a particular machine. We found one on eBay and had it shipped down from Canada. A word of warning..............when you order something from Canada, the odds are pretty good that the instruction manual will be in French! Thank goodness for uTube videos. Even with that, it was two long months before I could crank out a decent sock. Tehachapi Sock Company was ready for business.

The House Guest

Have you ever wondered if you could really scream when the occasion arose? Well, wonder no more - I'm living proof! Sunday I opened the back door only to be greeted by one of the ugliest lizards that we have up here on the mountain. These little beasts actually look like baby alligators. This one was a good 7 inches long. And of course he ran inside and ducked under the couch. Fortunately, my husband was right outside working in the garden and came running. Mind you, this isn't the first time this has happened and we now have a plan..............get the long-handled dust pan with broom. I slowly moved the couch while my husband lay in wait. They both started to move and.......got him! Oops, he's not inside the dustpan but under it. Ok, back to square one. My husband slowly lifted the trap while Rick and I edged towards the little beast. Voila! He ran right inside and the broom was placed over him. Whew!

We released him outside and he immediately perched himself upon this large rock to soak up some sun. Life in the great outdoors, eh?

The Story Continues......

Faced with the dilemma of no water, we made the decision to stay at the glider airport campground. From there we could keep a watchful eye on the property, have electricty, hot showers, laundry services and protection from the chilling winds, too. (the pipes unthawed!) The owners were kind enough to let us stay on a weekly basis, which ultimately turned into 2 months.

The home was completed and ready to leave the construction site. The problem....the property was still too deep in mud and snow. Our contractor, (Heaven sent for sure) was able to have the three sections of our home brought to a maintenance yard, where it sat for over a month. Now it was less than a mile from where it should be!

January seemed to have a record amount of snow days, as did February. But, slowly the days warmed and the property began to dry out. The day finally came when all three sections could be moved and put into place. Once that was done, we were still looking at over a month of work before we could move in.

Each morning we'd wake up at the campground and watch with binoculars to see the crews arriving to start the day's work. It progressed and finally, the day before Easter we were told we could move in.

We had made it through our 5 + months of RV living! And if you're wondering how I maintained my sanity...............I made socks! And more socks and more socks!