Thursday, October 6, 2011

Butternut Squash, Cherry and Pecan Salad

This is the recipe for my butternut squash, cherry and pecan salad. I brought it with me to a Harvest Home celebration last weekend, and I remembered just how much I love it.

If you need exact measurements, then this is not a good recipe for you. I'm sorry about that.

Years ago, I worked at Whole Foods in California. They had a salad in the deli that I absolutely adored. It was my inspiration for this.

Large butternut squash
Dried Cherries
Brown mustard
Maple syrup (Real, or don't bother.)
Lime juice
Poppy seeds
Cooking oil (olive, peanut, canola--something good.)

Peel the squash, then cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. (You can set those aside and roast them later.)
Cut the squash into cubes, toss with some decent cooking oil, and lay out the pieces on a baking sheet or 2.
Roast them in a 400 degree oven, until they're tender but not mushy. You want it to stay in cubes when you toss the salad. Start checking at 15 minutes, then every 5 minutes or so after that.
When the squash it cooked, leave it on the baking sheet to cool down, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Add the dried cherries to the bowl. (I used a whole bag. I think it was about 5 ounces.)

Put the pecan pieces (I used about 2 hands full. Be generous--there are only 3 main ingredients.) into a skillet, then turn the stove on medium heat. Stir and toss the pecans until they start to smell nice and toasty. Be careful, because they can go from perfectly toasted to burned quickly. When they  are nicely toasted, add them to the bowl.

Now for the dressing. No oil is needed, because the squash has some nice oil already. add some mustard, some maple syrup, and some lime juice to the bowl. Add some thyme, parsley, and poppy seeds, and just a bit of cumin. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad, then cover and refrigerate for at least several hours. Overnight is better. This is definitely one of those foods that is much better the next day.

I didn't take any pictures, but it's a beautiful salad, in addition to being delicious. The colors are rich and harvesty.

I did take this picture of something I was working on this week, though.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Tale of Refinancing a Car

On the first of March, my husband and I bought a beautiful new car. 2011 Ford Focus, the fancy version. They gave us 2 choices for financing. Ford Motor Credit was offering 0% financing. Bank X was offering a fairly low interest rate, plus there was a $3000 bonus that went with that one. Turned out that the offer from bank X was actually better than 0%.

Then, they said that if we wanted to raise our monthly payments by a bit, that we could have 90 days before our first payment was due. We went for it.

In May, before we'd even made our first payment on the car, we found out that we could probably get refinanced through Credit Union Y for an interest rate of approximately half of what we had from Bank X. Because we felt that a relationship with Credit Union Y was likely to be far more beneficial to us than Bank X, and because the difference in interest rates was not negligible, of course we went for the refinance.

Paperwork comes, we sign it, and we take a check and pay off Bank X. Then we wait for the title to arrive in the mail, so that we can get Credit Union Y added as a lienholder, and finish the process.

We wait.

We aren't sure how long this should take, so we keep waiting.

We get a Release of Lien in the mail from Bank X and file it, expecting the title to arrive any day now.

We're still not sure how long it is supposed to take, but it's feeling like Too Long, so we call Credit Union Y and tell them that we know that we're supposed to be sending the title, but it hasn't arrived yet, so please don't jack up our rates to the unsecured loan rate, OK?

We call Bank X and say that we haven't received our title yet, and do they know what's going on with that?

They tell us that they never received the title in the first place, and that they had asked the dealer about it, but hadn't really heard anything. They said that they would send us a Release of Lien, and that we could take that into the county clerk's office and apply for a duplicate title, and that should take care of things.

So, on July 8, we took the Release of Lien to the county clerk's office, and explain what we need. The woman there told us that we should go to the state office in charge of titling, because the state can print out a title while we're standing there, as opposed to possibly taking 4-6 weeks if the county does it.

Considering that we had just gotten a letter from Credit Union Y saying that they needed the title within 60 days or they were going to change our loan to the unsecured rate, we agreed that driving over to the state office was definitely the way to go.

We got to the state office, and said that we needed a duplicate title, and gave her the release of lien. She then says "I need your release of lien from Ford Motor Credit."

"Wait, what? Ford Motor Credit didn't finance the car, and doesn't HAVE a lien."

So, she starts looking things up. Then she figured out what happened. "So, it looks like when the county got the paperwork from the dealership, they mistakenly put Ford Motor Credit in as the lien holder, and sent them the title. Normally, FMC would send back the title in that kind of situation, but it looks like they didn't. So, you need to get something on company letterhead from FMC saying that they don't have a lien on your car, and we'll issue a duplicate title"

I went to the internet and figured out a phone number for FMC customer service. I call. The computerized system says "To expedite your call, please enter your account number or social security number." uh, I don't have an account. So I wait. "You have entered an invalid answer. To expedite your call, please enter your account number or social security number" And this process repeats for I don't even know how long. Eventually, the system realizes that for whatever reason, I can't or won't input an account number or social security number, and connects me to a person.

"Thank you for calling Ford Motor Credit. May I have your account number?" "Um, well, actually I don't have an account number. Apparently, you were sent my title in error, and I need a letter frm you saying that you don't have a lien on my car so that I can get a duplicate title." "Oh. Um. What's your name?" So I gave her my name. "Um, what's the VIN number? I just need the last 6 digits" So, I located the VIN and gave her the last 6 digits. "What kind of car was that again? That number you gave me doesn't match up with that car. Can you give me the whole VIN please?" So, I read off the whole VIN. "Oh, OK, yeah that VIN is right for that car, but I don't see you in my system."

"Right. We don't have an account, because you didn't finance our car. Bank X financed our car. The county apparently sent you the title in error."

"Well, I don't have any record of that."

Right about now, my brain pretty much quit working.Looking back, I wish I would have said "Of course you don't have a record of it. It never happened. I just called you to tell you that it never happened." Instead, I am pretty sure I reiterated something about the county, and the error, and that I needed something from them saying that they didn't have a lien on my car, which they clearly didn't have, or else they would have some sort of record of it, right?

She wound up saying that if I could get whoever sent the title in error to call and ask, that they would send a letter. Then, because there was no possible way to get back to the county clerk's office before they closed, I told my husband that I would pursue this Monday, and that we needed to go find someplace to eat.

When we got home, we found a letter in the mail from Bank X. It was a release of lien. Then we looked closely at the original release of lien they sent, and it had the correct names, correct VIN, and completely incorrect make & said 1981 Ford. I don't even know what to think of that. The new one, that they sent in response to our phone call asking what was up with our title, had ALL the correct information, which makes me happy. Sort of. I'm still rather baffled by 1981.

Skip to this morning. I called the county clerk's office and explained briefly what was going on, and that the state had told us to call FMC, and that FMC said that they needed to hear from the county. She puts me on hold a few times, pulling up paperwork and trying to figure out what exactly is going on. She asks me if I have a phone number for FMC, and I give her the number I called Friday. She promises to call them, and then call me back.

A little while later, the phone rings, and it's the lady from the county clerk's office. She tells me that she was talking to the people at FMC, and that they were going to send the letter, but then she noticed something in her paperwork.

Last week, on the 6th, someone at the county clerk's office went in and corrected the title, stating that FMC was entered mistakenly, and put Bank X in as the lienholder. There was a note in there that FMC had been sent the title due to county clerk's error. She then tells me that she has my title sitting on her desk, and that we can bring in the release of lien paperwork and loan paperwork and be good to go.

Out of my curiosity and hers, she investigated a little more to figure out who went in to do the correction and why, and it turns out that FMC sent the title to the DEALERSHIP, along with lien release paperwork, saying that they didn't finance that car, and then the dealership sent it in to the county clerk.

Of course, that was on the 6th, and we were in there and at the state on the 8th, and why it didn't show up then is a mystery.

Now, theoretically, we ought to be able to take our paperwork in, say that the title is on S's desk, pay $11, and have the whole thing taken care of. Right about now, I'll believe it when I see it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I'm growing birds in my garden again!

I have birds nesting in my garden again this year!

Last week, I was starting to feel very sad, because there were no birds nesting in my garden, so I assumed that I was not going to have any birds nests in my garden this year. Every year that I've lived here, including one year when I was not able to deal with a garden, so I just had a hanging basket or 2 out there, I have had at least one bird family build a nest in my garden.

Well, it was silly of me to think that it was too late for birds to nest out there. For one thing, it was not actually late. I pulled up some of my pictures of nests, eggs, and baby birds, and the nest pictures are all from within a week of today.

There are 2 nests out there right now, and I think a third is likely in the near future. For those of you who don't already know this, I'm not talking about a big garden or yard. I live in an apartment, and my garden is in containers on my balcony. It's a nice big balcony, but still only a balcony.

There is a Carolina Wren nest in my topsy turvy tomato tree. So far there are 3 eggs in there, and I think they usually lay 4 or 5 eggs. Carolina wrens build cool burrow-ish nests in enclosed places. They're tiny birds, so they hop into the holes in the top of the tomato tree, then they dig a hole, and build a nest in/around the hole with soft decayed leaves and bits of plastic and things.

There is a House Finch nest in one of my hanging baskets of petunias. I learned several years ago that house finches think that asparagus fern is a fabulous nesting material. I learned today that Thyme is really nice for building nests. I would be annoyed, except I was not likely to use THAT much thyme, and anyway, wouldn't you want a pretty nest made of thyme for your babies? They build really nice, strong, well woven nests, with sticks and grasses and asparagus fern and thyme. They line it with soft bits of lint, feathers, etc.

I think that there may be a Mourning Dove nest out there soon. I went out and startled one who was hanging out in one of the other hanging baskets. Their nests are very minimalist--not much more than a bit of a platform of sticks. We'll see soon enough if she was just resting there for a bit, or getting settled in to build a nest.

I also have bunches of baby tomatoes. I have 5 plants out there this year, and they're all producing. Last year I had 2 plants that never produced anything, so this should be fun.

Baby Purple Cherokee Tomatoes
Baby Patio Tomatoes

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Good morning, bloggy people :)

OK, so now it's afternoon, bordering on evening, but it really was morning when I said Good Morning.

The title of this blog post is Lizard. That is because when I went out to the garden yesterday to check on the plants, I saw a lizard peeking out at me from between two pots. As I usually do when I have a visitor to the garden, I looked up the totemic significance of Lizard. Wow, what a Lizard day it was, too!

Lizard symbolizes dreams and intuition. It also symbolizes sudden change and dropping old patterns. The kinds of changes we're talking about are not slow, or subtle. Just like a lizard can drop his tail and run away when necessary, sometimes we need to drop old habits and patterns and change direction right away.

How was my day Lizard-ish? Well, there was a fun supply crisis, and the sudden understanding that real changes needed to be made to the Pagan Team Coffee Chats I host on etsy, plus I started a new listing every day challenge. There were also some really interesting business possibilities that came up.

I'll finish with some unrelated pictures of my booth at Pagan Unity Fest.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Full Moon Thoughts on Prosperity Magic

Some of you know that I host the Pagan Team coffee chat on etsy, monday and wednesday mornings. Now, the rest of you also know :) Monday and Wednesday morning, 9 AM Central time (10 Eastern, 8 Mountain, and 7 Pacific) in the etsy chat room. You do not have to be a team member to attend, you just have to have an etsy account.

Anyway, the actual point is that the topic of prosperity magic came up today. I mentioned that I ought to add leaving some etsy feedback into my prosperity magic for today, and one of my friends asked if I do prosperity magic every day. I answered that I don't, but I should. Another friend said that she had heard that doing prosperity magic every day makes the Universe angry.

No, no, and no! It's not true! For one thing, the Universe has much better things to do than wandering around looking for people to be angry with. For another thing, even if the Universe WERE so inclined, doing prosperity magic every day is not going to make the Universe angry.

The Universe is not going to become angry with someone eating healthful and nourishing food every day, or taking care of their family, friends, and belongings every day, or delighting in the beauty of creation every day. Add the proper mindfulness, and those things are all prosperity magic.

I call myself a kitchen witch because I am far more inclined to quiet, practical magic instead of the more familiar rituals with scripts, candles, and wand waving. So, some of my most effective prosperity magic is the same sort of things that needs to be done, done MINDFULLY.

My sales tax return is due. I could sigh and whine and be angry while I fill out the paperwork, because the government is stealing my money. That would not be prosperity magic. I could gather my form, my pen, and my checkbook, and be joyful about the sales that I made, and envision the good things that those taxes will be used for in my community, and KNOW that I am doing what I need to do, and that there will be more sales, and more opportunities to help my community in the future as I write that check, and it becomes powerful prosperity magic.

I can be mindful of how and when and where I spend my money. I can support people and businesses and causes that are important to me with the money I spend, and that's prosperity magic shared.

The kinds of mindful prosperity magic that are possible are practically endless. Appreciating what you have, taking care of things that need to be done, community volunteer work, and any sort of creating, nurturing, and supporting.

Of course, just like eating the exact same healthful and nourishing food every day eventually will do harm, doing exactly the same sort of prosperity magic every day will do harm--possibly by becoming greed, possibly by wearing yourself and your resources too thin--but truly working prosperity magic is never going to make the Universe angry with you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

One Card Draw, going on now!

miintikwa is doing one card draws on her blog today, until 4 PM EST. She does these for free, although donations/tips are highly appreciated. If you've got a question for her, head on over!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Good People and Good News

When was the last time that you read a news article that brought tears of awe to your eyes? For me, it was just a few minutes ago.

Read this article, and feel a little better about the world!

Egypt's Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as "human shields"

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tikka Masala

A long time ago, I promised to post about my tikka masala. Since I'm in a mood to do some corrupting, now seems like a good time!

Chicken Tikka Masala

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs

1 cup yogurt
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 Tbsp Tikka Masala spice (I get mine from
2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 medium chopped onion
1-2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup tomato puree
1-2 Tbsp ginger paste
1-2 Tbsp fresh crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
2 tsp honey
1 tsp curry powder

Cut chicken into chunks.
Mix yogurt, lemon juice, tikka masala and curry powder. Add the chicken and marinate overnight.

Next day, saute the onion in the oil until it starts to caramelize.

 Scoop the chicken out of the marinade, and into the pan with the onions.  A decent amount of the marinade will come with the chicken, but leave what you can in the bowl. Set the marinade aside, and cook the chicken until there is no pink showing on the outside.

 With a slotted spoon, scoop the chicken out and put it in the bottom of a casserole dish. Most of the juices and onions will stay in the pan. Sprinkle the salt over the chicken.

And you're left with this in the pan.

Add the ginger, garlic, honey, curry powder and salt to the pan the chicken was cooked in. stir it together. Once it's mixed, add the tomato puree. Cook it all together until it starts to thicken and hold together as a sauce--about 5 minutes.

Pour the tomato sauce over the chicken. Spread it around so the chicken is covered, more or less.

Pour the leftover marinade over the top and spread it around so it's all in a fairly even layer.

Bake it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Start rice cooking just before you out it in the oven, and they should be done at the same time. Some steamed green beans go with it really well, although it's not exactly traditional.

I have made this with tofu instead of chicken, and it worked well. I would add some extra yogurt to the leftover marinade, because the tofu will definitely soak up a lot of moisture. Use extra firm tofu, and press it for several hours/overnight before putting it in the marinade, then follow the same procedure.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy 2011!

Happy new year, and I hope that 2011 is a happy and prosperous year for all of you! It's a prime number, which starts it off as interesting at the very least.

Yule and Christmas were lovely. The lead-up was hectic, as usual, and we spent Christmas weekend at home. There was enough snow on the ground to provide a good excuse for not leaving the house at all, and it was perfect.

My embroidery machine finally managed to let me know what her name is, so I can finally post a picture of my workspace and introduce you to everyone.

On the desk, you can see my laptop, Matilda (after Empress Matilda) and my Husqvarna/Viking sewing/embroidery machine, Aelfgigu. The big embroidery machine is Mama Ocllo, and you can see my new serger on the table. Her name is Elizabeth, after Elizabeth of York. Katherine (after Katherine Swynford) is my older Singer sewing machine, and you can see her case under the table.

You can't see the other computers, because they're in other rooms, but I'll introduce you anyway. Eleanor is my desktop, and she'll be moving down into the work room soon. Jane is my netbook, and she goes with me to shows/events. Anne is new to me, and will be taking over in my office, in Eleanor's current space.

In the event of a machine uprising, I'll definitely be one of the first to die. My machines and I get along well, everyone is treated well, but if it came down to an uprising, they'd really have no choice, right? Especially considering that my husband's computers are not included in that list.