Cremesicle Ice Cream

Cremesicle Ice Cream  

My husband doesn’t remember these from his childhood, but he grew up in the wilds of eastern Montana.  I grew up in an area twenty-five miles east of Seattle which was the sticks in the 50s and now is a bustling urban community. Farms no longer exist there.

My first encounter with the cremesicle was in fourth grade.  It was some kind of a celebration that day and we had “treats!” I had never seen this thing I was handed before.  It was cold and in a little paper tub that probably held about half a cup of something cold.  It had a paper lid with a tab that you could pull to get to the stuff inside.  Glued to the lid with a dollop of clear glue (probably not food grade) was a flat, very thin, piece of wood with a little shaping.  This was “the spoon,” I was told. 

Inside was the most delicious ice cream with orange colored swirls.  The swirls were actually orange flavored as well.  The ice cream probably came from the Happy Valley Ice Cream Company which was about a half mile from my classroom and which gathered its milk from all the small dairies in the neighborhoods around where I lived. We each got one of these delightful pots of cremesicle and boy was it creamy.

When I moved on to junior high there was an ice cream stand in the building where I could purchase all kinds of ice cream treats during my lunchtime. A big list was posted on the back wall, no pictures like today’s Good Humor Man, but lots of tasty treats such as drumsticks, fudgesicles, ice cream sandwiches (with chocolate “cakes” on each side of vanilla ice cream, and cremesicle.

I ordered a cremesicle and was a little disappointed in the presentation of the product.  It was on a stick! I unwrapped the package and discovered that they had completely changed how the cremesicle was made.  It was still vanilla ice cream with orange swirls, but it was packaged like a popcicle. It still tasted wonderful and I continued to order them when I could afford the ten cent price.

Now cremesicles have been around since 1904 when an eleven year old boy decide he would see what would happen if he dipped his ice cream bar in his orange juice.  It stuck and created a hard shell.  He lived in Florida and there was always a lot of orange juice.  As he grew up he marketed these gastronomic delights around the state and eventually around the nation.  He is said to have coined the phrase popsicle as well. Not exactly the same thing I was eating, but relatively the same taste.

So the bar that I was eating in junior high and eat to this day was actually closer to the original cremesicle than the little tub I got in fourth grade.

Jump ahead to modern times.  A few years ago the Smith Family of Ebey’s Prairie had a celebration for the 100th birthday of the gigantic barn on their farm.  They invited the whole island where I l live to celebrate by taking tours, seeing the equipment, checking out crops and most importantly, seeing the inside of this important historic landmark. 

There was cake and ice cream and lemonade for everyone and it was a festive occasion.  I was in the line to have the cake and ice cream when I noticed a cooler filled with a stack of little paper tubs with something glued on the top that looked like a thin piece of wood. Wow! This was the cremesicle of my fourth grade year.  What better way to present ice cream at a 100th year celebration. I skipped the cake (store bought) and asked if I could have two ice creams.  I was really impressed.

Rush ahead to today.  I am making a cremesicle cake for dinner.  It is a cake that has two finely chopped oranges in it.  Whole oranges, peel and all (except seeds, though these are seedless). It will have a vanilla crème frosting to complete the cremesicle flavor and it will be four layers high.

The ice cream bar section of the grocery still has cremesicles occasionally, always bars, not tubs.  I very rarely purchase them anymore, but it nice to know that still I can.


Growing your own is one frugal idea

Now that the New Year is here and we are back into the confines of isolation because of Covid-19 and we are making New Year’s resolutions, are we considering frugality, or has it been a part of our lives from the early years?  For me, frugality is a way of life.  As a teenager, I was responsible for paying for all my own expenses except housing, medical, food.  Clothes, entertainment, books for school, etc. all came from my allowance.  I learned to be frugal.  If I wanted a new winter coat, I needed to save for many months before I could go to the thrift store and afford one.  See what I mean?

So I am frugal to the point of stingy. Consequently on my reduced income, (had to close the painting classes I taught) thanks to Covid-19, I am still doing fine.  We have learned to live modestly on just our Social Security.  We don’t eat out as often, obviously, as most restaurants are closed excepting those with take-away dining.  Few of those interest me.  I have never eaten at MacDonald’s and never intend to. Luckily the restaurants that were geared for take-away are doing a land office business.  The line at the drive-in window of MacDonald’s the other day extended around the building and partway down the block.  How long must they wait to even order? We did spend a good deal of our income on eating out before the epidemic. Fortunately, that habit is changing and may stay changed even after the restaurants reopen, if some of them do.

When I worked at Boeing, I won the Frugal McDougal award!  There was a contest to see if we could find ways to reduce costs and waste in the Boeing Everett plant.  I turned in leaky air compressor hoses which were causing the compressors to cycle even though no one was using the air.  I won a helicopter trip over Puget Sound.  Probably cost more than they saved by fixing the leaking compressor hoses. See, I am even questioning the decision for such a prize.

We heat our house with wood.  It is probably cheaper in the long run than using electric heat. Besides, it warms me twice, when I split it and when I burn it.  Helps keep me in shape as a side benefit. What we pay for a cord of wood, since we are now of an age we cannot cut down giant trees ourselves, is still less that electricity.  My job is to split it for the cookstove which heats our house.

Bake your own hamburger buns

In the kitchen do you purchase the store brand or the name brand?  Often times they are produced by the some manufacturer.  Can you detect a difference between them? Probably not, so why pay more?

Do you plan your weekly meals around special bargains at the grocery? Why not? A couple of weeks ago, my grocer, a wholesale company, had 15 avocados for $8.  We are eating lots of avocados. 

Do you wash used zippered plastic storage bags? Of course.  What a waste to throw out a perfectly good ziplok bag. Do you reuse the cottage cheese carton to freeze leftovers? Make sure you date and label them as who wants to eat three year old unidentifiable leftovers?

Do you use your tea bag again to make a second cup?  Not me, I don’t like weak tea. You are like my aunt if you do.  She dried them on the clothes line and then reused them! She wins the frugality award for that. Yuk.

If you forgot to drink you cup of coffee, do you reheat it in the microwave?

If you drink bottled water, do you purchase bottles or is it delivered or do you refill at the grocery?  We have a touchy water system; consequently we do not drink the water (kind of like living in a third world country).  We do indulge in bottled water, but we refill three gallon bottles at the grocery.  We do not purchase filled bottles of water.

Around the house, what is your newest piece of furniture?  Ours is a new sofa, new about fifteen years ago, new actually. We have a “new” mattress which is now almost twenty years old. Everything else came from the thrift store with the exception of my dresser.  My dresser came from an unfinished furniture store when I was born seventy-five years ago.  It has been painted and stripped numerous times to refresh and redecorate.  I still use it every day.

Thrift stores are my go to shopping place.  Luckily we have several good ones here on South Whidbey.  I have purchased desks, pots and pans, toasters, mixers (the hand mixer I use was purchased at the thrift store forty years ago and still going strong). Most importantly, most of our wardrobe comes from the thrift store.  I purchase everything except underpants and men’s undershorts there. I find fashionable attire that doesn’t look as though I just got dressed off of Macy’s clothes racks. Clothes that I have from the thrift store are often better quality than that that is for sale today.  T-shirts have some substance and you can’t see through them.  They don’t get holes the first time you wash them.  Get my drift?  Sure the items don’t always come in your size, but you adjust to what is available. I have one cotton sweater that I still wear regularly and I have for the past forty-two years.  It was better made than any I could find in the store now.  Contemporary clothing is created to be worn a few times and tossed!  How is that frugal?

Purchasing underwear. Do you purchase your underwear in six packs?  If so you can probably consider yourself frugal in that department.

Do you do without?  When you see a sweater in one of the dozens of catalogs, either online or in the mail, do you resist? How many sweaters do you need?  Is it going to be a good quality, or cheaply made to be thrown out at the end of the season? Do you think twice and say, I have enough, why buy more?

Well, frugality can be a way of life.  For some it will start late with reduced income from job losses as a result of the virus. Will you know how to reduce expenditures? Were you ever taught? If shopping is entertainment for you, you will have to change your ways.  Shopping should be for the things you NEED not a spontaneous way to satisfy some craving. If you are considering a purchase of some non-essential item, wait two days before doing it.  If you still want it then maybe it would be a good thing, but usually it is no long wanted or the need has disappeared.

Now that you have been frugal and you have a pile of money that you have saved by being frugal, what will you do with it?  I put mine in a saving CD. If you are not as fugally-mined as myself, you could take a trip to Paris?

When making those New Year’s Resolution, keep frugality in mind.  I know it isn’t the American way, but it may become the only way.

Canning what you grow or purchase in bulk. Canning jars purchased at the thrift store

Home Alone–Christmas 2020

Hummingbird Cake from Christmas Eve Dinner

Home Alone-2020

Christmas 2020 gives a whole new perspective to Christmas.  “Home Alone” now has new meaning. Some folks around the US may not be experiencing this, but in Washington State, the mandate is to not allow any outsiders (non-residents) into your house. 

This was the mandate at Thanksgiving and it is again the mandate at Christmas.  Since we are well past middle age, we are following the mandate, the virus would probably kill us, though there are those who choose to ignore it.  Probably the reason the virus is once again escalating in our area.

Before Thanksgiving I had purchased a frozen turkey for the festivities, festivities which did not come to fruition, so the turkey remained frozen solid in the freezer.  Oh well, I could cook it for Christmas.  Not so as the mandate was renewed and the turkey remains in its solid state this morning, Christmas morning.

Home alone, yes, but not too upset about it.  I remember Christmases past.  Remember getting up early to get the turkey ready for the oven, or the roast, or whatever was your choice of celebration food?  Remember making cranberry sauce, cookies, desserts? Remember cleaning house for weeks before while decorating for the holidays?  Well, I did decorate, just for us, but as far as cleaning went, this year was a lick and a promise.

Christmas, and Thanksgiving too, are much more relaxed this year.  Quiet too with no one turn the TV to football(as if we own one), we can just listen to Christmas music and nibble. We could wear our pj’s all day and not comb our hair. The preparation of the meal is much easier and much more simplified.  We are making a small Frenched pork loin and German sweet and sour cabbage, no pickles, olives, salads, sweet potatoes, no mashed potatoes, just a piece of unctuous pork that I brined, and my husband smoked with a little black currant au jus. I baked a raspberry pie and we still have Hummingbird cake left from dinner last night.

A real benefit is that there are going to be fewer dishes to clean up as well. We have a movie from Netflix to watch.  It isn’t snowing (did that earlier in the week) but it is a dark day.  We have a seven foot screen with surround sound to watch the movie, so it will be a very laid back day, just as a holiday should be.

I would wish that there were a way that Christmas could be like this every year, quiet, but with the addition of family and friends able to celebrate with us, though I like the idea of phoning and talking with the rest of those confined to quarters this year.

I hope that those of you who chose to remain home alone find all the wonderful things that I have this year, a real peace and quiet, a chance to meditate on the season, quiet conversations (by phone) with loved ones, Simple exquisite meals, shared or unshared, maybe a chance to reread The Christmas Carol or A Christmas Memory or The Thanksgiving Visitor (Capote) or Gift of the Magi (O’Henry). All great reads for this time of year.

Enjoy the holiday.  Merry Christmas.

The Main course Christmas Dinner-Smoked French cut pork loin

Mikey’s Gift

Old Dollhouse in Antique store (not the one Mikey found though)

Last year I wrote a story about Christmas giving which I am sharing with you now. Hope you enjoy it. It may also be read at

Mikey’s Gift

Mikey figured he was now pretty grown up. Last year, at Christmas, he had finally figured out that Santa was really Dad and Mom.  Now that he knew the truth, he felt he had grown up, no longer a baby.  It was OK that it was Mom and Dad, but it did take some of the fun out of the holiday.  Now he knew that it was about giving and love, not the big guy who just delivered presents once a year. 

He, however, isn’t going to ruin that fantasy for his little sister Ariel.  Ariel is six and Santa is still a very big part of her holiday joy.  She visits him in shops and has her photo taken sitting on his lap.  She waves to him during the annual Christmas event where he rides through Langley on his fire truck. She whispers in his ear what she really, really, really wants for Christmas, a dollhouse.  She doesn’t just whisper it to him, but has written him a letter, told the whole family what Santa is going to bring her for Christmas.

One day Dad and Mikey were browsing in Good Cheer in Langley, the area’s favorite thrift store, and, to their surprise, and almost as though that it was meant to be, they discovered a two story dollhouse. It wasn’t in the best of shape, looking kind of worn out.  Some of the shingles were missing and it was in need of painting.

Mikey told his Dad, “Let’s get it! We can fix it up and make it beautiful for Ariel.”

“Well, it would take some work, but maybe I could help you with that,” said Dad.

They snuck it home and into the garage without Ariel seeing it.  She was at ballet.  Now for the big job of making it beautiful.  Each of the tiny rooms needed paint in different colors.  Small pieces of wood needed to be cut to replace the lost shingles.  Mikey could hardly wait to begin.  He worked hard for a month when Ariel was playing with her friends or at ballet.  Mikey carefully painted rugs on the floor, replaced some of the missing acrylic windows, and put a chimney on the roof and a fireplace in the parlor.  How would Santa get in without a fireplace? He had found a small, wooden Santa when he bought the dollhouse and planned to put him inside.

Finally it was finished.  It was a beauty, looking almost brand new and glowing with fresh paint.  He wrapped it in two rolls of Christmas paper and put a big bow on it and hid it behind the Christmas tree.  He was very proud of his gift for his little sister.  It was a gift from his heart made with love.

Since he didn’t want to ruin Ariel’s fantasy of Santa, he carefully made a card and signed it “Santa.”  Ariel would never know of all of Mikey’s work and time and care creating the perfect gift for her from Santa, and Mikey wouldn’t tell her. His real gift was letting Ariel believe in Santa for another year.


I felt badly when an acquaintance wrote earlier that she was having trouble being thankful, couldn’t think of anything.  In 2020, the virus has caused many to become depressed.  She, as a business owner, finally managed to come up with being thankful for hot water.  Sometimes we have to remember all the small things for which we should be thankful.  They DO add up to BE a large part of our lives.

This Thanksgiving is different from most we have experienced and we have experienced so wild ones.  Try finding a turkey in Beijing.  We found smoked turkey legs, but no one could tell us where the rest of the turkey went.

For years we went camping for Thanksgiving.  The last two years we spent a week in Sequim, Washington having turkey dinner at the Boy’s and Girl’s club there. It was a great dinner; as good as I normally make for the day. No Sequim for Thanksgiving this year as we were cold the last time. We went in October instead.

One year it was in a windstorm on San Juan Island, trying to keep the fire going to cook the meal.  The heat was moving horizontally and we couldn’t get things to heat.  Finally we created a barrier to protect the fire with two pilfered picnic tables.

Many years ago we spent Thanksgiving with my sister and brother-in-law on Orcas Island and BBQed a turkey we never got to eat.  The great Thanksgiving Day storm (125 mph winds) blew it away and luckily (and thankfully) didn’t burn down the cabin we were staying in. We never found the turkey.

So much for T’day from the past.  This year’s sets a new standard, the Covid-19 Thanksgiving in isolation. Our governor has mandated that we not have people from outside our households over for the celebration or over at all.  No T’day touch football, no snuggling up on the couch watching the dang TV or napping, no taking home your portion of the leftovers from a monstrous meal. And for us, this year, a modest, not monstrous meal.  I purchased a turkey, but then the mandate came down and my sis and brother-in-law and husband decided we should follow the mandate as the numbers are rising logarithmically.  At our age, who can take chances? Maybe we will serve the turkey at Christmas.

So I got to thinking about thankfulness for hot water.  Wow, that is really something to be thankful for in our climate.  When we first moved into our house we didn’t have running water.  The only hot water was provided by laying the garden hose in the sunshine and rinsing quickly before the cold water got to you. Yes, hot water! Especially when I am doing the dishes after dinner today.

 How about the cool spot under the covers in bed at night when the heat from your body is making you glow in the dark?  I love that cool spot and am thankful that it is there and I won’t have to run outside naked to cool down.

How about when your husband vacuums the house and you didn’t even mention it? I am thankful for a patient, loving husband. (not  a small thankfulness)

What about those hateful, invasive species blackberries that are threatening my house, car and driveway? Yes, on the biscuits for dinner today, I will be thankful that I wrestled them to the ground, risking life and limb and made the wonderful wild blackberry jam we will have on them.

I am thankful that carrot cake and pumpkin pie count for my vegetable servings.  What better way to choke down carrots?

I am thankful that the slugs have gone into hibernation. A couple of weeks ago I put on my gardening shoes only to discover a slug had decided to hibernate in the toe.  It was a major project removing the goo from my toes, but it was even harder to get it out of the toe of my Sloggers.  Finally I just put paper towel in the toe and it will wear off eventually.

I am thankful for the little chickadee that follows me around the garden in hopes I am on my way to feed the doves I raise.  She always gets a few seeds from their food, so she is now by big buddy squeaking at me with her high pitch song.

I am thankful for all the work I put into splitting two cords of wood this fall, though I wasn’t too thankful when I was doing the work.  Now I am warm and cozy and the cookstove is chugging away and simmering goodies in the pots for the modest dinner we will prepare.

I am thankful for the bright yellow sugar maple outside my window that a friend gave me years ago.  It is glowing in the mists of the grey day.  It reflects its golden tones to the inside of the house too. It makes me smile when I look out at it.

There are thousands of small things for which to be thankful.  I could probably write a whole book on BEING THANKFUL. It is a good exercise and one I would recommend today, especially, but every day too.

Not a small thankfulness is the thankfulness I have for the friends that are part of my life, even though I cannot share this celebration with them face-to-face.  Those I count as real friends are smaller than a handful, but have been traveling with me in my life for more than thirty years, and a couple longer than that.  We have been staying in touch anyway we can even when distance and isolation orders are keeping us apart. One sent me a Thanksgiving greeting this morning from Beijing where she lives and teaches.  It made my day.  Thank to all my friends, few but wonderful. 

To all, including my close friends, I wish that you, too, would find joy, peace, and thankfulness in all the small things.  There are hundreds and they add up to a mighty thankfulness.  Just think if you had to take a cold shower today! BE THANKFUL.

The Explosive Croissant

What should a croissant be?  Not the ones I usually see in the grocery.  They are soft, though not too bad for flavor if they used butter, which most don’t.  Usually they use butter flavored margarine or lard. 

When we lived in China, we had croissants every morning with a bowl of fresh fruit, yogurt and granola.  It was great, but not the true French-style croissant, just more exciting than the usual Chinese breakfast.  Not sure, and was afraid to ask, what was used in place of butter, butter not being a Chinese favorite.  Since the grocery was one that catered to foreign students and local Chinese, I have no idea.  They were passing/fair croissants, but they were not real croissants.

What should a croissant be?  It should be an explosion. When you bite into it, it should break into hundreds of shards, all down the front of your shirt, in your lap, on the table and down to the floor.  They should literally burst when bitten into.  The butter should be fragrant and distinct.  Danish butter is best, but sometimes I make homemade cultured butter which has more flavor than the regular store bought stuff.  I love croissants.

Over the years I have tried to make decent croissants, but they were a lot of work and many times, only fair results.  I could get cracking explosions, but just for a short time after baking.  They would soon become chewy, uninteresting little crescent rolls.  The flavor was still OK, but the consistency went way down hill quickly.

So I decided to experiment.  What would happen if I approached the addition of the butter in an entirely different way?  Instead of rolling it out into a large sheet between a couple of sheets of plastic or waxed paper, chilling it and then putting it into the dough and trying to roll it out, what about a new approach? It was always difficult to roll out the soft dough with the hard butter enclosed inside.  Almost impossible.

New approach? I froze a one pound block of butter (I didn’t use it all for my experiment).  When the dough had risen, I grated the butter in the food processor and sprinkled it onto the dough.  Now when it is enclosed, it rolls easily and smoothly as the small flakes allow the dough to stretch, which the big sheet of butter didn’t allow.  The French method requires several chillings of dough and butter and several rolling out phases. This method only rolled it out once after the addition of butter and didn’t toughen the dough. It worked perfectly.

A second thing I learned was don’t knead.  I let the rough dough, which was barely combined, rise till double.  I then rolled it out without kneading at all.  Kneading excites the gluten and causes the croissants to be tough.  Handle it tenderly.  Just moving it enough to keep it together.  This required a good deal of flour sprinkled on the board to roll the dough as it was sticky.

Third thing on the learning curve was a two stage bake.  Part of the reason they softened so quickly after baking was the center was still too moist.  I baked these at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then reduced the heat to 350 degrees for another 10-15 more minutes.  There should be no light colored dough around the seams in the rolled croissant.  It will be somewhat dark and firm to the touch.  I left them out overnight covered with a linen cloth to keep the mold spores from gathering.

The results—shattering. Messy. Fragrant. And very satisfying croissants.  To reheat—since I didn’t eat the whole batch at once—425 degree oven until they are hot.  For my husband, I wrapped some of the dough around 70% bittersweet chocolate for pan au chocolat. My preference is marzipan filling dusted with powdered sugar. They were still crispy in the morning and tender and explosive!

For a dozen or so—depending on how big you make them:

2 ¼ of all purpose flour—any kind

¼ teaspoon salt ( used salted butter so minimized the salt in the dough)

1 tablespoon sugar

½ tablespoon instant yeast added to the dry ingredients above

1 cup milk (I used whole milk)

2/5 pound of butter and up to ½ # as desired

Stir it all together and let sit in a warm place for a couple of hours. By stir, I mean barely stir until it is a rough mix and scrape down the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Do not mix in the electric mixer.  We don’t want any excited gluten here.  I have yet to try these with cake flour which is very low in gluten, but that will be my next test.

When it has risen, roll out gently to a very thin sheet.  Mine was about 18 x 24” when completely rolled, almost able to see through it.  Sprinkle the middle third with grated butter and fold the right third over the butter.  Sprinkle the double layer with grated butter and fold the left third over.  Now you have a package about 6 x 24”.  Sprinkle the bottom half with the remaining butter and fold the top over it. 

Roll this out to a 14 x 24” sheet and cut the croissants as needed—triangles for the traditional and rectangles for the pan au chocolat. Let rise until double and bake in a preheated oven at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake 10-15 minutes longer.  Cool on the baking pan.  I like to use one of my very dark pans so the undersides are nice and brown.  No need to grease the pan.

Eat two or three immediately with jam and café au lait! Indulge yourself, there are still several more for breakfast tomorrow.

Modern Day Camping in Washington State

I always loved to sleep outdoors.  My sis and I started when we were small sleeping on the patio on our “farm” in the country.  Laying outside on the ground and watching the stars.  Most of my life I have continued to sleep outside in the summer where conditions suited.  Living on Whidbey, it was private and easy to roll my sleeping bag out in the yard and watch the stars pass. 

My folks knew I really enjoyed camping, so off to summer camp every summer for a week.  Unfortunately, the week my girl scout troop reserved each year was the first week after school closed, notorious for rain and fog in western Washington.  We went in and cleaned up the camp and as a result could stay the week for $8 including meals. Consequently, I learned to love camping, even in inclement weather.

My last night of sleeping directly on the ground convinced me it was time to fix up some kind of platform with some padding for outdoor sleeping.  That fateful night I awoke to something sucking on my neck.  It wasn’t my husband.  It was a giant banana slug, common in the Pacific Northwest. 

Sixty-five years later, I still love camping, but now it is “glamping” with all the amenities.  I no longer sleep on the ground and I stay in campgrounds rather than sleeping in someone’s orchard or in the woods. I also sleep in a fifth wheel trailer, but if private enough, I would sleep outside.  My husband no longer sees the charm of it.

It used to be that when I went camping I would cook over a fire.  We would sit around the fire and toast marshmallows (something I do over the gas burner on the stove at home as I love them so much.) and tell tales of our previous camping experiences. When it was time to return home, EVERYTHING needed a thorough washing including sleeping bags, frying pans and myself—smoked to the enth degree. Many folks can’t get their BBQ to smoke that well.

Today in Eastern Washington, I am sitting in a rather nice RV park having just come from Cle Elum, a very primitive campground–no services—campground (no running water, no electricity. NO CAMPFIRES!

These days in Washington State you cannot have campfires.  You can’t even cook BBQ with briquettes.  Propane is allowed for BBQ and the modern outdoor campfire, but don’t throw on any materials which would burn. 

We are in the wake of multiple, terrorizing, fast moving forest and range fires. In the past we have had fires in the fall, but none like we are having this year (2020). Last count 330,000 acres under siege. We are sitting indoors, but hope to go visit the potholes where we will probably have to stay in our vehicle with the AC recycling the inside air.  The sunrises and sunsets are gorgeous, but the days are a brown-out with smoke drifting in from fires that are hundreds of miles from where we are staying.

I guess some things never change—I will still go home and have to wash EVERTYTHING as we have been thoroughly smoked without even the benefit of being able to enjoy toasted marshmallows!

Day 69 of the isolation order (Washington State)

IMG_5561We are still going strong. We are healthy and have tested to be negative of the coronavirus! We are still eating well from a well stocked pantry and today we are having a peppery, weedy/orange salad from the greenhouse, pork chops with homemade sauerkraut, hand collected juniper berries, fresh strawberries with cream from the greenhouse. My husband wanted to add grilled potatoes.

The salad is peppery greens (rustic arugula and fresh watercress) which we have grown and harvested.  Sliced orange with fresh goat cheese and crispy bacon with an orange vinaigrette.

The pork chops are a quick cook with homemade sauerkraut, collected juniper berries, whole allspice and pink lady apples, served with the hot and spicy and sweet homemade, whole grain mustard.  We will have the crispy potatoes on the side.


For dessert, my husband just picked strawberries out of the greenhouse and we will have those with cream and baked pie crust scraps for dessert. Wow are we eating high on the hog, so to speak.

And of course, we are having my husband’s homemade nut brown ale with the dinner.

Adventures in Creativity—Babycakes Week 4 in Isolation!


We are well into isolation now and it is becoming a routine.  Don’t have to be anywhere or have any obligations.  Here in western Washington, the only thing I need to do is take part of the day to enjoy the rare sunshine.  While I am sitting out on the lawn soaking up rays, my mind runs to scheming.  Bad.  I usually get into trouble scheming too much.  I come up with too many project ideas and my old self and that of my husband cannot begin to keep up with them.

Part of the scheming starts when I wake up at dawn and try to be quiet so as to not wake my spouse.  He is tired as he has gotten up and taken the old dog out a couple times in the middle of the night and his sleep has been disrupted.  I can sleep through it, so I wake earlier and scheme.  What will I cook for meals?  What will be my next painting? (I have completed eight since this isolation started almost a month ago. Visit my website

So I planned dinner—Jamaican Jerked Chicken PoBoy with Siracha Mayonaise, daikon radish slaw (ghost slaw) and beer.  I have the French baguettes rising and awaiting their time in my very hot oven (500 degrees).  But what did I want to make for a sweet to finish the meal?

I pondered that for a while today.  I am the kind of person that makes a pie or cake and then only eats it once.  I lose interest in it after the first day.  So twice now during the isolation I have experimented with “babycakes.”  What is a babycake?  It means making a pie, tart, cake, torte in a mini size.  I have some 4” tart pans and some 4” springform pans.

A couple of weeks ago I made a chocolate ganache tart and a lebnah/blueberry cheesecake both with shortbread crusts.  Today…..a Dried Pear with Goat Cheese and Almond Paste cheesecake!

Here’s where even more creativity comes in.  I looked online to try to find a dessert that took dried pears.  Well they are few and far between and, of course, they shift to fresh pears after one recipe for the dried ones.  So I have just gotten five pounds of very nice, soft, dried pears and I want to use them.  Luckily I had some montrachet cheese in my larder.  I also keep a bucket of almond paste. A small amount of homemade golden syrup( like Lyle’s Golden Syrup), but I could have used honey instead.  Diced up some of the sticky, gooey dried pears I just got. Mixed those up with an egg and put them in my 4” springform pan lined with a shortbread crust.  Voilà.  Baked and it is finished.  It is cooling and I know it will taste fantastic as I sampled it raw and wanted to eat it just that way; probably not a good idea with the raw egg, but it was delish.

Dinner is still at least an hour away, I think I will go out to the greenhouse and pick some mint for Mojitos before dinner!

Jamaican Jerked Chicken—we’ll save that for another day.


Baguettes for Jamaican Jerk Chicken PoBoys just into the oven.


Dried Pear and Goat cheese with Almond Paste Cheesecake on the table!

Still in Isolation and Loving It

IMG_5497Still in Isolation and Loving It

You probably think I am crazy to love the Stay at Home requirement in Washington State.  Most of us do not have any essential needs, which are the only ones that allow you to go out, pharmacy, doctor, food and the like.  Right now I need none of these, so going out isn’t an option. We do go to the mailbox once a week so we can pick up all the bills and mail the ones from the week before.

Each morning I make a list of things I want to accomplish.  This helps give order to an otherwise order less day. Every day my list has contact those for whom I have concerns and make sure they are OK. It also has what country I have chosen for the food we will prepare for dinner. Any projects that I have been putting off are on it as well.  Yesterday I got my part of the lawn mowed!

Today’s list, and yesterday’s as well, had “CLEAN THE WOOD COOKSTOVE.” I put this in capitals because it is a project and a messy one. Obviously, I didn’t do it yesterday as I put it off. Today I decided that procrastination is a bitter enemy and I would tackle it first. As with my students and painting (my full time occupation), I tell them “Do the hardest or most difficult part of the piece first. If you are not successful with that, the rest of the piece will not come together.” Well, the list is the same.  Last night I went to bed knowing I had done the easy things and had not done the hardest, clean the stove. Today was the day and since I am writing this, you can be assured that I accomplished that task!

Not many of you understand the workings of an old wood cookstove.  There are many convolutions in its innards that collect soot and creosote which are a potential fire hazard.  Cleaning the stove means taking it apart to some extent and scraping the surfaces to remove these nasty concretions. Usually I look something like a chimney sweep when I’m finished.  Even after cleaning myself up my nails look as though they had been manicured by an auto mechanic.  Unfortunately, I washed my hair when I got up this morning and it will need another washing again.

Some time back I wrote a piece called The Behemoth, a portion of which appeared in Grit Magazine along with photos of the beast. It is big, very heavy and takes up ten square feet of my floorspace, of which I have not much. For your reading pleasure, I have added the piece I wrote for you to enjoy if you like.  It explains the behemoth in more detail.

If you are on enforced isolation, learn to enjoy it.  It will probably be a once in a lifetime episode (hopefully).  I always wanted to be a hermit, and this isolation is allowing it to some extent.  It allows me all the time I need to paint, sew, and cook, a few of “my favorite things.” Enjoy the story below.



The Behemoth


“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice”—Henry Ford


It’s true.  If you own a wood stove and you chop your own wood, it will heat you twice.  I generally try to chop my wood in late spring while the weather is still cool and the wood will have a chance to dry before fall.  It really does warm you, chopping wood.  There is something wonderful about being outdoors on a cold crisp day and splitting wood. I love the deep turpentine-like smell of fir and hemlock as the pieces fall away.  We also split alder occasionally which has its own astringent smell.  It is good for smoking foods and departs a wonderful taste.  Fir and hemlock are not good for smoking unless you like a piney residue taste in your foods.


I used to split wood, for most of my life, with an ax.  It was easiest if the trees were still green, and not dry, as the wood pops into two pieces more easily. I did this for years.  Occasionally the ax would get stuck in a piece which wouldn’t pop and that was when the real work began, trying to get it to pop by picking the whole thing up and bashing it down again to try to force the ax through, or just trying to loosen the ax from its confinement deep within the piece of wood.


Finally, as this was becoming more and more difficult,(for an old lady like me) I bit the bullet and bought a splitter to work off the tractor.  It uses the hydraulics on the tractor to power a hydraulic cylinder that pushes a wedge through the wood.  Now all I have to do is be careful of my fingers and watch out if it pops violently, which it does sometimes.  You can get nice bruises on your thighs if you are in the way.  During the course of a morning I can split a half cord of wood if I am not stacking it as well.  Boy was that a great $175 investment.


Now to the Behemoth.  This is what I call my wood cook stove.  About twenty or twenty-five years ago when my husband was in Montana visiting his family, he called and said he had located a stove in a barn in the eastern part of the state.  It was in great shape. But…..did I mind that it was pink enamel?  I was just happy for such a find.  I said, definitely buy it.  He brought it home and it is dove grey, a perfect color.  My husband is red/green colorblind and he didn’t really know what color it was and took a guess.  I thought when he said pink it was probably the swimming pool green color that was popular in many stoves from the ‘30s.


It is a 1935+/- (?) Wehrle Colonial Range #82-20X.  It had been sitting in a barn for a number of years when my husband purchased it and brought it back to Washington State where we live.  It has heated our house ever since.  When he purchased it, it had been converted to an oil pot burner, since there are not a lot of trees to burn in eastern Montana.  Pot burners were a type of heating from Victorian times up until recent times.  The local theater here on the island had a pot burner just in front of the screen that glowed on winter nights to keep the theatre warm.  The cabin I bought when I moved here had an “appliance” which was enameled dark brown and sat in the living room.  Classmates in high school had pot burners in their living rooms.


This device had a fire proof pot inside into which No. 2 stove oil (diesel) dripped at a rate set by a valve on the side of the device, by turning on the valve and letting a little oil drip into the pot.  Open the door and drop a match or a piece of burning paper into the pot and the oil would ignite and heat the house as long as the valve was turned on.  The amount of heat was determined by the speed at which the oil dripped.  Outside there were barrels of diesel up on stands, higher than the pot in the house which were filled with oil that fed by gravity to the pot.


They worked well until oil prices skyrocketed and we could hardly afford to use them.  In Montana, some enterprising farmer had converted this stove to this method of cooking and heating because he did not have access to trees and wood, and the stove was not useful for coal burning as it would become clogged with soot. When oil prices got to high, it had been relegated to the barn.  Lucky us.


We, however, have enough windfall each year to heat several homes and this stove, after reconverting it back to wood, has heated ours easily.  It includes a warming oven and water tank.  There is also an accommodation for a water jacket, which we have not installed.  We place a large box fan next to the stove to circulate the heat throughout the house.  It is the only heat source we use and we are toasty.  It bakes a great turkey or pot roast.  I only use the oven for slow, low temperature cooking as the house gets too hot if I run the oven at anything higher than 275 degrees.


On the stove are three, three-gallon kettles.  These are full of water which stays hot all night after the fire has gone out.  They are still warm in the morning and the house is still toasty.  When the power is down and our water pump doesn’t run, these kettles are a source of hot water for washing up.


In winter the stove simmers a lot of soup.  It is the perfect stove for this.  I also make crème fraiche and yogurt in the warming oven.  The mid-temperature (center of the cook top) burners are used to make ricotta cheese and it works better on this stove than on our gas range. We keep the tea pots warm on the top and coffee cups are stored and warm in the warming oven ready to use.


One of the burners on the top of the stove is a special pot lid with an insert that you can raise and lower so creamy soups and porridge won’t stick or scorch on the bottom of the pan, which is real handy.  It says on it “Raise register and cereals will never burn.  I use this burner device to heat the milk for the ricotta.  Never scorches on the bottom.


Not only is the Behemoth wonderful, but it does allow our chopped wood to warm us the second time.