Sunday, November 21, 2010

Munched!

Italian Parsley is one of my favorite herbs.  It grows well in most any type of soil, it needs little water, it stands up to all but the coldest weather, and I can snip leaves from the plant for two years before it goes to seed and dies.  Parsley also has a distinctive, fresh taste that goes especially well in dishes that are not subject to high heat.  If colors had taste, parsley tastes green.

Whenever I plan my kitchen herb garden for the year, there is always space reserved for parsley.  I plant enough for myself, then I add another plant or two for the caterpillars.  "Caterpillars?" you ask; yes, the caterpillars.  The caterpillar of the black swallowtail butterfly dearly loves parsley.  Since this is one of my favorite butterflies, I do not mind sharing my plants.  I snip parsley leaves throughout the spring and early summer, but when the caterpillars arrive in late summer, they can have all the parsley they can eat.  When they are finished, the plants usually recover well, and I can eat parsley leaves again until winter forces the plants into dormancy.

This year, however, the combination of heat and caterpillar attack was too much for my poor parsley plants.  When the weather finally cooled, they did not revive.  This summer's oppressive heat also took its toll on my entire herb garden, decimating everything except my chives.  Saddened, I began planning a small winter garden of kale just to have something green growing outside my kitchen window.  I went to my local co-op for kale plants and was surprised and delighted to find they also had Italian parsley!  Certain that the black swallowtail season was over, I only bought a few parsley plants, planted them next to the kale, and waited for the scrawny little plants to settle in and fill out enough to supply me with leaves.  Three weeks passed.

Ready to add some parsley goodness to a yogurt cheese ball, I took my scissors out to my herb garden only to find that my parsley had been munched!

Here is a closer look at the culprits.  Note that the caterpillars do not all look the same.  This is because they are in different stages of their life cycle.



















When a black swallowtail caterpillar is annoyed or frightened, it grows little yellow, fleshy horns and emits a strong odor as a defense mechanism.















I was shocked to find my plants covered in caterpillars so late in the season but also resigned to losing more parsley.  Hopefully, my patience will be rewarded next year by an abundance of butterflies!  The plants have recovered somewhat, but not enough to supply me with fresh leaves this year.  I may attempt to transplant one into a pot to grow inside over the winter.  Meanwhile, I will use grocery store parsley for my holiday yogurt cheese balls and plan next year's kitchen herb garden.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Spiced Tea


I did not originally intend to post two recipes in a row, but after enjoying a cup this morning, I decided it would be nice to share.  This is my mother’s recipe, and making it is one of my favorite family traditions.  The scent of spiced tea filling the house is our acknowledgement that cold weather has officially arrived.

Spiced Tea
(makes approx. 2 gallons)

8 C strong black tea (8-10 regular or 2 family-size tea bags)
46 oz pineapple juice
12 oz frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 gallon apple juice (not cider!)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 C sugar
1-2 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot.  It is wise to put the cloves in a tea ball for easy removal later.  Simmer, do not boil, on the stove for at least one hour.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Though it was something I had never done while growing up, I have lobotomized a fair number of Jacks in recent years and stood by while hubby and kiddos carved, too.  Until last year, the inside goop, seeds and all, went directly from pumpkin to trash.  Last year, Hubby wanted to try toasting pumpkin seeds in the oven.  Neither of us had eaten toasted pumpkin seeds before, but I enjoy sunflower seeds, so I was willing to try.  Following directions we had seen somewhere (probably on a Food Network show), we separated, rinsed, oiled, salted, and toasted.  We barely allowed the toasted seeds time to cool before popping them into our mouths.  The outer shells were rock-hard and nearly impossible to split without shattering the meat within.  All the salt had remained on the outer shell, leaving the meats utterly bland.  Yuck!  This was not what we expected!
This year, I decided to try again.  Wary of repeating last year’s disaster, I did a bit of quick research and discovered that there are two main methods of toasting pumpkin seeds: the oil and season method we used before and the boil and season method.  The recipe below, based on a recipe I found at Simply Recipes,* is the method that worked best for me.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
4 C water
2 Tbs salt
1 C raw pumpkin seeds (in shell)
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Place a silicone baking mat on a baking sheet, or coat the baking sheet with olive oil.
In a saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil.  Add pumpkin seeds and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Drain the water from the seeds and spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake on the top rack for 10 – 20 minutes, or until the shells reach your desired shade of brown.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow to cool.

Do not be alarmed if you hear popping noises from the oven; some of the shells are popping open from the pressure of steam that has formed inside.  No harm is occurring to either seeds or oven, but it is amusing to watch the reaction of the unsuspecting cat who happens to walk by the oven!
A minute or two after the seeds come out of the oven, they will begin to crackle as they cool, similar to the sound Rice Krispies make in milk.  It probably has to do with steam escaping the shells again, but it was another opportunity to astonish the children.
Just as the taste of coffee or chocolate beans depends upon how long they were roasted, pumpkin seeds will develop their own characteristic flavor according to how long you left them in the oven.  I prefer the meats of mine to be brown for a roasty, toasty, nutty flavor, but it is hard to tell how dark the meats are by looking at the shells.  If I can find a source for raw unshelled seeds, I intend to try toasting them next.

*  You know you are in grad school when you still feel obligated to cite your sources – even in your blog!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

No Grand Promises

Reading my most recent posts, I can only shake my head and sigh. In spite of all the reasons I started this blog, it became a victim of procrastination. Like many of the things I do purely for myself, its priority slipped in favor of tasks and projects for other people.

I cannot promise that this effort will be any different.

My reasons for posting again are not purely noble; there is an external factor goading me into writing now. My hope is that, this time, I will keep going. Though all of my writing in the past couple of years has been for other people, this blog has always remained on my project list, while other things have been removed.

Other projects I have recently pursued and about which I intend to write include:
  • knitting
  • felting
  • inkle weaving
  • beeswax taper candles
  • Dutch oven cooking
  • heraldry
  • calligraphy
Yes, I am still a Rambler, sampling various mediums of expression and enjoying them all!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rhetorical Question?

What is it about this mad, mad hobby of mine that after a demanding week which has shaken every facet of my mundane life, I can spend a physically, emotionally, and spiritually grueling weekend helping my beloved Shire host an event, yet, now that I am warm, dry, and have my children safely home, I can say with all sincerity that this has been one of my best weekends in months? Oh, I do so love my friends...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Resumed!

Yesterday's Statistics exam awaits my professor's red pen, and I have caught up somewhat on neglected sleep and housework, so blogging can now resume. I do not flatter myself to think I am one of the cool kids, but I did miss posting.

Seamas has gained some noteriety with the Librarian's Challenge. We have received comments from four kingdoms now, which is truly flattering. He has been working on updating SCAdia this past week; I expect him to release the update soon.

Last weekend, I photographed some of the softball games at my company's family picnic. Though I usually do not engage in much action photography, I am very pleased with how most of the photos turned out. I am even more pleased with people's reactions after I posted the slideshow on our server. For example, I overheard one of my co-workers talking on the telephone about the slideshow that afternoon. She was telling the person on the other end to look at specific slides and was talking about what was going on at the time each photo was taken. A truly positive experience, and I find myself looking forward to next year's games.

So life returns to normal for a few weeks - until my next exam!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ramble Pause

Gentle Reader, I beg your indulgance for a few days. As many of you know, I am pursuing a Master's degree and am taking a statistics course this semester. Saturday is our first exam, and I must therefore focus my attention in that direction for a few more days. The recent flurry of posts will soon resume...!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Quest XII Denizen Instructions

In Smythkepe's quests, the "denizens" are the people playing roles (parts). In order to make sure each denizen understood what was going on in the Quest and what his or her particular role was to be, we gave each a page of General Notes (which applied to all the denizens) and a page of specific notes for his or her own station. This year, we used the camp's "Fort" (Seamas called it a "Palisade") to set up a small town.

The theme of this year's MSKD was the Siege of Malta. Most activities for the entire weekend was broken into Ottoman vs Maltese, with War Points awarded for the victorious. Even Quest was worth a War Point, so Seamas and I worked the theme into this year's design.

First, the General Notes:


GENERAL NOTES FOR TOWNSPEOPLE


The teams of questers entering the town are escaped prisoners of war. There are Maltese teams escaped from the besieging Turks, and there are Ottoman teams escaped from the defending Knights. They do not know which forces control this stretch of coastline or this small town.

Frankly, neither do you!

The Turks are at the end of their resources, and will break off the siege in just a week, on September 8th - but of course you don't know that today. Although your town is obviously Christian, you should avoid offending Ottoman visitors until you are certain that the town will not be shortly invested or occupied by Turkish forces. (Just for safety's sake, the taverns have sold out of anything alcoholic.)

The town itself is a small coastal outpost with a lighthouse. The west side of town is the seafront side. The town guard has been sent out to patrol the roads, leaving the town defenseless. Hurrah!

[Seamas drew a marvelously scaled map here, which I am unable to reproduce as of this writing.]

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Please don't help the questers solve any of the puzzles or quizzes.
  • Moira calls her tavern the "Sable Falcon" but everybody else calls it the "Black Bird."
  • The lighthouse also holds the town library (although few people can read).

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

Librarian's Occupations Quiz - Part 1

Tonight, Seamas put the Librarian's Occupations list into a format that lets a person input their answers and then see their scores. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get the code to work on Blogger. Tomorrow, he will work on adding the quiz to his own site, SCAdia.