Saturday, March 29, 2014

One Time, At Band Camp...

What a crazy couple of weeks. Work has been busy. I had to do my taxes. My teen turned 20. Sniff, sniff.

Jackson Junior High School Band, circa 1976.
I really do feel this young. My hair is still funky too. Some things never change. Our Junior High School marching and stage band members try to meet up with our band director, JJ Walden, who we all love and remember. We've probably met with him six or seven times the 38 years since seventh grade. Did I say 38 years? Seems like yesterday, but I am happy not to march in parades carrying that ^^ heavy thing.

JJ Walden and Jane
Mr. Walden was huge inspiration to many students. His no-nonsense teaching techniques enabled many of us to learn musical skills. One of our old band members currently plays in the US Navy band and I think another member made music his profession.

Mr. Walden had the ability to control 50+ pubescent goofs with just a look. Some of those goofs pushed the limit, but Mr. Walden steered them in the right direction every time. Quickly. Many of us compare him to our fathers. We had deep respect for the man. And he could play every instrument, like he owned it. It was cool to see.

Under Mr. Walden's direction, we won several competitions in both marching and stage bands. We were quite talented. Ha! I played the glockenspiel (bells) with my friend Tina in the marching band. Double glockenspiels, can you imagine? I doubt JJ could either! Poor guy.

In stage band, I attempted the bass guitar. We also had concert and symphonic bands at the school that everyone played in. It was a great experience and I like to think Mr. Walden influenced thousands of students, not just our group who has kept in touch. He did say we're the only group that buys him lunch every few years. He still gives private lessons. Tina sent her son to him, so he continues to inspire.

The "kids" that couldn't be there left messages for Mr. Walden on Facebook (he has a fan club now). A small group of us band geeks have been friends since elementary school and still tease each other like seven year olds. Thankfully, we're past spitballs. That was a bad year. We're a bit older and thicker, but we still know how to party like band geeks. Can't wait until the next reunion.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Saturday was International Quilting Day

I wasn't able to sew on International Quilting Day, which is held the third Saturday in March, but I got a little quilting in today. CatVent is finally getting quilted. It's been sandwiched on my dining room table for a while. Good thing we never eat in there. The weekend was gorgeous, but laundry doesn't do itself, so I spent most of Saturday working and doing chores so I could play Sunday.

We set out to boat on the lake Sunday, but the winds were whipping. It would have been fun in a sailboat, but a motorboat, not so much. Luckily, the canoe provided some outdoor entertainment on our pond.

Bones kept watch over the rowers even though he wasn't feeling well this weekend. He loves being outside and in the sun, so hopefully that made him feel better.

I had already made picnic type foods to take on the boat, but you can picnic anywhere, even in your own backyard. These prosciutto wrapped asparagus were so good. I think I ate 90. Just toss asparagus in a bit of olive oil and wrap with prosciutto. Grill or bake at 425 degrees until prosciutto is crispy. I made a dipping sauce of Greek yogurt, capers and fresh lemon juice. Also on the menu: pasta salad, grilled kielbasa, deviled eggs. fresh fruit, and sugar cookies. We should probably have celery sticks for dinner.

Edamame are one of my favorites. These roasted edamame are addictive. I used this recipe, but substituted frozen edamame I cooked a bit in the nuclear wave. You have to dry them off really well before baking them. Add Parmesan cheese before baking. You won't be sorry. They are much better than the roasted variety you can buy in the store.

Check out these mind-blowing facts about time. My allergy headache just got worse.

Have a great week!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mary Ate a Little Lamb

I use my photo file as a screen saver for my lapto and I spotted these lamb shanks I made back in October. I did a search through the old blog and couldn't find any reference. Now I'm craving lamb shanks. Especially this recipe. My cousin went to culinary school in the 90s and made a dish similar to this for the whole family. I played her soux chef, but the magic was all hers. It was the best lamb dish I've ever had.

Lisa used a leg of lamb she got through her school and I have never had the exact recipe, but I set out to recreate what I remembered. I used lamb shanks, bacon, tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, celery, carrot, onion, garlic and black olives.

I buzzed the veggies in my food processor to get things rolling along quickly. The veggies cook down into the sauce, so they don't have to be chopped pretty.

Brown some chopped bacon in a big pot to render the fat. Use the fat to brown the lamb shanks on all sides. I just seasoned them with kosher salt and pepper. If you use a paper towel to dry the meat it will brown better. This step adds a bunch of flavor to the finished dish.

Remove the bacon and browned shanks and put the veggies in the pot. Use a little olive oil if you think things might stick. You're just looking to soften the vegetables a bit.

Throw the shanks and bacon back into the pool and dump in tomatoes, tomato paste and beef broth. You can add a bit more salt and pepper too, but don't overdo the salt. You'll add salty olives at the end. If you hate olives leave them out. Cover your pot slightly and let simmer for a couple of hours. You could place the whole pot in the oven as well. You want that lamb to cook long enough to fall off the bone. Cool the shank and give it to your dog to take outside. You won't see him for hours.

The sauce thickens naturally during the cooking process, but if it seems thin, let it boil gently on the stove uncovered. It will thicken and make a beautiful ragu. I add olives toward the end of the cooking process so they don't fall apart. I remove the meat from the bone and toss it in the sauce, but you could serve one shank per person if you want to make a great display. I like this served on creamy polenta, but you could serve it on egg noodles, mashed potatoes, pasta, or just eat it out of a bowl.

Sweet Weekend!

I finally finished my Riley Blake challenge quilt. And just in time too; a new Modern Quilt Guild challenge is starting this month. More free fabric. Whee!

This little quilt makes a great hot pad for my cast iron pot, which I have been using non-stop.

Speaking of the Modern Quilt Guild, they've announced that QuiltCon 2015 will be held in Austin, Texas again. Yay! I'd attend just for the food! So many great places to eat. I'm thrilled to have my same roomie Rene' and already getting excited. Last time was a blast. Squeee!

Also exciting was this huge gift box from my buddy Yumi. She sent me all kinds of goodies from Japan, including an entire case of Cheezas which I shared. I usually hide them for myself. ;) There was a cool toothbrush, lots of snacks, dumplings to steam, gorgeous fabric, horse oil hand cream, and some scary green drink powder with brown bits. Wasabi coffee with chocolate chips? Yumi will tell me what it is, but sometimes it's fun to just try these new things. Unless it's wasabi coffee with chocolate chips...

I had College Boy build the little bird that was in the goody box . These are the tiniest Lego-like pieces I've ever seen. So cute. Birdy is hanging out in my studio.

Our guild's Saturday Sew Day was a blast. I cut the fabric for the Canoe Ridge Creation's Gigantic Starburst quilt before I left and happily stitched the top together in no time. It makes a 60" square quilt, so this pattern is a keeper for quick quilt tops. I plan on quilting this one in 2020.

We had a smaller group sewing on Saturday, but the talent was in abundance. Just look at all the projects my guild buddies are working on. I'm always in awe around this guild group. We have so much fun. My sides were starting to hurt from laughing. On another note, only one gentleman walked in the room where we sew at the library and asked if we could tailor his suit. I hope our laughter didn't offend him. Ha! We always get at least one person wanting us to tailor garments and we always laugh.
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