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Sundry and Miscellaneous

Have I mentioned my awesome big brother? December 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — vicunasuz @ 12:00 pm
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It is so rare that you come across someone that just “gets” you, don’t you think? I have learned to not really talk to people about some of the things I get really excited about. I use to get all excited and energized about certain limited edition makeup stuff, and expensive new perfumes coming out, but I got tired of seeing people’s eyes glaze over as I rambled on about my latest discovery. And my interests tended to be for the more esoteric things not readily available. No one cared about naturally sourced ambergris or ouds in perfume. No one got excited over the latest Guerlain perfume or Cle de Peau makeup, seventh century Japanese haikus or Moroccan cooking, so I just kept it on the internet bulletin boards. I did get excited enough to blog about the latest Guerlain eyeshadow palettes last summer and put some pictures on here. I deeply fell in love with them and had to share the pictures I had found online. I pretty much knew I was the only one in my circle of family and friends that cared, but I was so enamored that I had to put it on my fresh new blog.

However, there was indeed one person that “got” it. My big burly woods tromping, coyote shooting, deer hunting brother. Despite the fact that when my parents brought me home from the hospital to my then four year old brother and he promptly began putting pillows on my face as I lay in the crib, he does “get” me. He would put the pillows on my tiny infant face, then go and tell my mom or dad, “That baby girl has a pillow on her” so they could rescue me. I like to think he was attempting to strengthen me for survival rather than annihilate me, you know? Oh, and one time he got a car cigarette lighter red hot then put it against my arm. Yeah. And the time we both had ice cream cones which, of course, he ate faster than I did since he had a few years on me… then he told me I would get in trouble because mine would start to drip and I would get messy, so I better trade my full cone for his almost finished one so I wouldn’t get in trouble. So considerate…though Mom caught him in the act on that one.

Despite his attempts to suffocate, burn and deprive me, I have survived and who knows, I may be a little tougher because of his thoughtful efforts. Oh, oh! And the time he and his friend Reggie took me down the street and told me to push over the neighbor kid’s bicycle, so I did. Not once but three times with the kid and his mom watching from the front window until the kid ran outside and pushed me down in the middle of the street. My brother and his friend took off. Yeah, I was maybe three or four years old at the time. No cars hit me, though I don’t know how I got home. What’s crazy is the trust I had in my big brother and would do as he asked.

We rarely ever got into arguments or fought, and the times we did I am very certain I was the instigator because I knew he was under orders from mom and dad to never lay a hand on me. He would play catch with a baseball although I’m sure I was horrible since he was always the pitcher for his Little League teams, and he taught me how to throw a curve ball. We would go target shooting with various rifles and handguns and had a great time. I have permanent damage in one ear due to this from the loud crack of one gun, but I can also still spot a Groundhog in a field from a far, far distance. He has always been a hunter (I am not at all…I like my targets to be quite non-mammalian) and we would dissect them to see what they had been eating. I loved those times.

I had mentioned several months ago that I had been kind of interested in Crossbows. I had seen one and was surprised at how heavy it was and couldn’t imagine that it would be easy to actually take aim and shoot with any accuracy. We had Thanksgiving at he and his wife’s home, so after dinner he took me up to his big storage building to “show you something”. This is how he gets me to do things, by merely saying, “Hey, I want to show you something” or talk about something. I follow right along because it is invariably interesting. He wanted to show me his Crossbow and to shoot it. I had never shot one in my life and it seemed a little intimidating and dangerous. I mean, the whole thing about being careful where you put your fingers so you don’t lose it as the bolt is shot, the fact that once the bolt is in place the only way to unload it is to shoot the thing, etc. He set up the target, I took aim and he released the safety. I remember wondering where that shot was going to end up. I shot and hit the target dead center. Bull’s eye. We laughed at what a fluke that was and I was ready to leave. I mean, you always leave the party at the peak, right? But he wanted me to shoot it again, and I’m sure we both thought this would really go off wild. Dead center again, in fact, right on the previous arrow…like right on top of it. Turns out I am a  natural born Crossbow shooter, apparently. I double checked with him to make sure he hadn’t given me some kind of advantage, but he explained the workings of the scope, the distance and all that. It was official. We went back to the family, I tried so hard to brag and drag someone to the out building with me so I could show off, but no one wanted to play my reindeer games. At one point, my brother disappeared. Next thing he was standing outside their big bay window in the living room holding the target up (he had kept both arrows in it) so everyone could see my marksmanship. I love that guy! Forcing everyone to admire my handy work! Now that is an awesome big brother!

He use to have a parade of cool cars, too. Mostly I remember the “chopped and channeled ’32 Ford coupe”, the Hearst Oldsmobile and a Nova. He would take me to car shows with him, and take me for rides on his Harley. Ah…good times, good times! He is also incredibly accident prone…falling off ladders and hitting the pavement below, spraining his ankle hunting, losing his fingertips on one hand from a steel mill accident. By far the worse was his accident on his ATV. The bones in the man’s face were shattered from the eyes down, his jaw broken in several places, his palate broken and he was losing huge amounts of blood, yet still managed to walk the several acres through the woods and fields back to his house and ask to be taken to the local hospital. The hospital took a glance and he was life flighted to Cleveland Metro. He spent weeks in an induced coma and several surgeries. His facial bones are held together by metal plates and screws, though you would never know to look at him. We almost lost him then. I cannot imagine my families’ life without my big brother in it.

All that to say he is very manly, outdoorsy, hunter and classic car lover…quite different from this girly girl. But over the years, he has proven several times that he “gets” me. He listens to what I like or really puts thought into what I might enjoy, whether it is music, interest in the Crossbow, or even perfume he has bought for me. He is a pretty quiet guy, and keeps to himself.  But this year, he thrilled me more than ever.

Look what my big brother got  me for Christmas!

Yes indeedy! The infamous Guerlain palette

The Guerlain Ecrin 6 Couleurs Eye Shadow Palette

Specifically, the 68 Champs-Elysees palette

Turns out, that he was as intrigued by the packaging as much as I was. I knew he read my blog, because he would kind of make jokes about it, so I didn’t think he really paid attention.Turns out he decided this would be the ideal Christmas gift, and so his latest hunt began. This little work of art is not available within Ohio. He had to turn online to find it and then once found, he had to choose between the 5 palettes available for the color. I would love to have heard him on the phone with Neiman Marcus. How did he say Guerlain? How did he say Champs-Elysees? He said he chose this color combination because it was the most interesting. It is also the one I would have chosen. I wore it yesterday and it is gorgeous. The shades are a taupey-gray, and the center accent color is more purple than it shows in the pictures. The grays are a great mix of mattes and shimmers, but always subtle. Very easily blended together so no ugly streaks; it wore perfectly for hours with no smudging, creasing or shimmer fallout showing up on the cheeks. The black eyeliner is a soft black and easy to handle without turning into the dreaded raccoon eyes after a few hours.

One last look at the intricacy of the case. Now I have to find a pedestal and glass dome and put it under a spotlight. Nah, but it is going into my jewelry armoire, to keep to my Swarovski crystal Hello Kitty powder compact company.

It also comes with a velvet pouch to keep it in.



Sciurus carolinensis, aka Stymie November 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — vicunasuz @ 10:43 am
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Wow! It has been over two months since I’ve entertained you with more tales from  “Adventures From The Slab”! I looked over my previous posts and thought that I had mentioned Stymie to you. Afterall, you have seen Frick and Frack, the tobacco worm brothers as well as Sluggo. Sluggo is still around, surprisingly. Even on really cold frosty mornings he has left behind a slime trail of a size that only Sluggo can leave. The Red Tail hawk hung around for a couple of days, much to the chagrin of the gray squirrels that hang about The Slab. For reference, The Slab is approximately 8’x10’…I’ve seen walk-in closets that were bigger…but as you’ve seen it is a happening place for the usually hidden wildlife.

As I mentioned, the squirrels were all in a dither over the hawk. They spend hours running along the tops of the fence, but when the hawk was in the area they would run on the lower rail holding the boards together. They were always sending up a hue and cry with much tail whipping and yelling to one another about hawk sightings.

Stymie has been so named because when I attempted to plant some pole beans he would invariably dig the seeds up and eat them. Time after time. I eventually put a trash can lid over top of the pot (I was experimenting to see if they would grow in a huge pot) and he was thwarted, but not before he had stymied (see what I did there? Stymied?) my efforts at a crop of pole beans on the acreage. The pole beans eventually grew really large and climbed up a trellis made of panty hose with the toes thumb tacked to the fence (I am nothing if not resourceful).

I’ve been watching the squirrels for some time and became a little concerned because they have a steady diet of peanuts from one of my neighbors. I live in a development in suburbia and there are zero nut trees for these squirrels, so I started going to a nearby city park to gather acorns for them. I figured it was a great way to get outside and bonus points for providing a natural mast for the squirrels. So I am the crazy lady carrying a plastic grocery bag to the park, gathering acorns for “my” squirrels. And I make sure to get a variety from different kinds of oak trees. Yeah…I get some looks from the joggers and mommies pushing strollers. I also suspect the park is a popular rendezvous point for clandestine meetings but I’m not one to ask questions…

I put out a handful of mixed acorns and go back into the house and, along with Gracie, watch the squirrels from behind the screen door. It has taken seemingly forever, but I’ve finally reached an agreement with Stymie that I can sit outside about 3-4 feet away while he fetches acorns then scampers off to bury them.

All that to say: I now present you with the first pictures of Stymie, the overweight squirrel.

First, you have to stare at the crazy lady to make sure she isn't going to "getcha"

Creeep slightly closer while whipping the tail around...keep staring intently...

Better cross over to the other corner and make sure it is safe & whip the tail some more

Stretch out and grab an acorn. I am sitting about 3' away on the step.

I like the crazed red eye I got when the silly flash decided to go off but it didn’t seem to faze Stymie. He will collect two of the smaller nuts at a time, and will work really hard to collect one small one and one large but just can’t do it.

After selecting your acorn, you have to stop and readjust it for carrying or remove the cap if it is still attached.

I would love to know why the acorns have to be de-capped before burying. Stymie is a very well fed squirrel! He is definitely the fattest of the three that hang around and the only one that will come and get acorns while I sit outside. One other one keeps circling around me, whipping its tail, craving the acorns but won’t get any while I’m outside. As soon as it hears the screen door shut, he comes and collects acorns.

Later, Stymie! Oh, and occasionally he buries them in the pole bean pot. Too funny!


Next stop on the backyard nature tour… September 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — vicunasuz @ 5:05 pm

Frick and Frack, the caterpillar brothers, finished consuming my tomato plant and left the premises under cover of darkness. Further, I hadn’t seen Sluggo since I last reported on him. Well, that is, until this morning. Alas, no pictures this time…I know, I know…you’re disappointed but here’s the thing: When I first saw him this morning I thought he was, well, I quite honestly thought some rude neighbor had let there dog do its business on my acreage lawn slab of concrete.

I followed my usual morning routine of brewing the coffee, giving Gracie her morning spoon of stinky food, and touring the acreage monitoring the crops patrolling the neighborhood perusing the flower garden opening the backdoor to look at my slab of concrete. I first noticed the distinct fall chill, then saw what appeared to be a curl of…well…shall we say dog scat…smack dab front and center of my field of view. *Sigh* I turned back inside to fortify myself with a nice hot cup of Peet’s coffee and a splash of half n’ half in my favorite mug. Back to the door and…wha… the poo moved? I obviously need more caffeine; take another slurp and stare intently at the supposed dog scat that seems to be straightening itself. Hm…wait, it has horns. Sluggo! Moving mighty slow in the chilly fall air! Nice slime trail, though.

The point of this exhilarating post is not to enthrall you with tales of faux dog scat, my friends- I need your help in identifying this guy:

Sorry for such a distant view through the kitchen

I saw it sitting on my fence, probably looking for the chipmunk that lives around the slab of concrete or perhaps trying to figure how to get at my Gracie through the door screen. I tried to get closer to get a better picture, but it flew away. I think it is a juvenile Red Tail Hawk. It was definitely bigger than a Kestral.

Also, now that I look at the picture, the only thing missing is a hot apple pie cooling on a window, don’t you think? The flag, weathered fencing, cute blue and yellow valance, pink geranium…makes me smile. Perfection would be an eagle, but a Red Tail hawk will have to do the job.


The Return of Sluggo August 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — vicunasuz @ 6:52 am

Wonderful crisp morning, moon still bright in the dawn sky and a nice steamy cup of the first coffee of the day in hand. Ah, time to check on the crop and the caterpillar brothers, Frick and Frack. I couldn’t find them anywhere on the decimated tomato plant, though left plenty of  ‘pillar droppings behind. Then I saw one of the discarded cherry tomatoes move on the concrete. Say, what?

Upon closer inspection (and following the massive slime trail) I see my old friend, Sluggo, feasting on the cast off.

Gross, man! Bad enough that he runs around stark naked (a shell would be nice and very a la Francaise, hohn hohn. But then I may envision him as potential escargot.)

While lying about gorging on green cherry tomatoes, he is about 3″ in length. Also in the picture are some weeds I pull and leave to dry on the concrete because the sparrows love the dried weeds, then I like to sprinkle some flaked grains around for them. My version of a farm, you see. The basil leaf was for size comparison, plus it adds a nice splash of color, no? Do you see Sluggo’s little horns?

Then he began making his escape. I don’t think he is the outgoing type and disliked the attention of the paparazzi. He stretched out full length and made a mad dash into the iris. Well, maybe not a mad dash, more of a leisurely glide. On mega doses of slime.

But really, Sluggo

A shell would add so much panache

Later! Ya big slug.


Attack of the Tobaccoworms August 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — vicunasuz @ 10:07 am

While watering the crops this morning I thought I should check on my newest addition to the hairless critter kingdom, mentioned in my last post. I had to search for him a bit because this guy looks remarkably like the tomato stems only much fatter…and has a red horn on his butt. I found him, and poked him, of course, then left to empty some trash.

When I came back, I had to check on him some more and to poke him some more, too. I had to search the plant again as he didn’t seem to be where I had last seen him and I hadn’t been gone even 5 minutes. Not only was he where he had been, but he had also cloned himself overnight.


Lovin' those tomato plants!

Now, keep in mind these babies are just about the size of my index finger, they get around very well and are doing a good amount of damage to the plant.

Pretty soon it will be just twigs

As well as sampling the tomatoes, though apparently only green ones are tasty. The orange one only received one bite.

Yummy green tomatoes; orange only gets one bite

Fortunately, I’m not really a raw tomato lover. I cut them in half and oven dry them to freeze and use later. They are outstanding dried. Chewy with a rich tomato flavor.

I am fascinated by these guys and will let them have the tomato plant since the plant it is slowing down production for the season. It would be cool if these turned into big beautiful butterflies or Luna moths, but they will be just plain ole brown and gray medium sized moths.


It’s a Jungle Out There! August 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — vicunasuz @ 5:52 pm
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I was sipping a nice iced tea today, enjoying the perfect weather and admiring my acreage lawn backyard lanai slab of concrete and crops garden potted plants, consisting of one pot each of a basil, a cherry tomato and a pink geranium. As I checked out the tomato, it seemed some leaves were missing from the top stems. I leaned in for a closer look and came eye to eye with this fella:

He is 3.5" in length

Note the red horn on the rump. Snazzy! Turns out that he is better known as the Tobacco Hornworm rather than in his moth mode, assuming a bird doesn’t discover him first.

So not cute!

I believe my pet slug, Sluggo, invited him over to feast upon the bounty that is my one tomato plant.

Sluggo measured 3" long

Look at what he has done to one innocent cherry tomato! Fortunately, he seems to be leaving the basil plant alone, so more pesto is in my future!

Poor tomato never had a chance

Enough of the wild and not so woolly (why the lack of hair on my patio critters?), on to some pretties. First up, my geranium. My mom gave me this last summer and it spent the winter on my dryer in the basement. Occasionally I would throw a little water on it, then one day in the spring I noticed it was putting out more leaves so I put it outside on my trash can, where it happily resides to this day. I’ll let it vacation again on the dryer this winter and see just how long I can keep it living.

Ah! Summer on the trash can, winter on the dryer!

Next up, my African violets. I’ve managed to keep these alive for over a year now, and they have bloomed constantly since March.

This baby measures 13" across!

The leaves curve down like a waterfall on this pretty.

I know, it’s a quiet drama free life. Exactly how I like it!


Good, better, bestest July 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — vicunasuz @ 9:28 am
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I had posted previously about doing a compare and contrast between a jar of Rao’s Marinara Sauce and making a recipe that purported to be a copy of Rao’s that I found on the internet. The recipe is one that Frank Pellegrino of the cookbook Rao’s Cookbook: Over 100 Years of Italian Home Cooking reproduced on Martha Stewart’s show. I made the recipe on Martha’s link but cut the recipe in half and sauteed the onions and garlic in the fat remaining from approximately 2 ounces of rendered salt pork. I ended up adding maybe a tablespoon of sugar, which I mention in the comparison below.

I used approximately 1 ounce of each sauce–a one 1 oz sample straight from the jar of Rao’s and one 1 oz sample of the recipe off of Martha’s site– at room temperature in individual serving cups (shhh… Taz and Bushe, very hush hush on where these serving cups come from), tested straight with no additional garnishment, pasta or bread.

The jar of Rao’s Marinara lists these ingredients: Imported Italian Tomatoes, Imported Italian olive oil, fresh onions, fresh basil, fresh garlic, black pepper, salt, oregano. Note there is no mention of meat at all. Yet, in comparison, the Rao’s is less acidic and somehow meatier. I had to add a small amount of sugar to try to ease off the acidity a bit (I used Cento brand whole San Marzano tomatoes packed with basil). Despite my using the fat from salt pork the saute the onion and garlic, and despite that the ingredient list on the jar does not list any meat, somehow the jar seems to taste of mellow meat. My marinara is pretty darn good following this recipe, but the jar, I have to admit is still better. It is mellower, a little richer, smoother. Worth the average price of $8-$10? No, but if you can find it on special I would probably get it.

Again, the marinara recipe I will list below is the best I have made, just don’t put it side to side with a jar of Rao’s and it is more than satisfactory. But while discussing the recipe with a Whole Foods manager, he said that he drops a whole, thick cut (2 inch) bone-in pork chop into the marinara while it is simmering. This adds some wonderful porky meatiness to the sauce and you can serve the chop with something else or add the cooked meat to the sauce when it is completed. This sounded like the answer to adding the meatiness lacking in the recipe, but…what pushed this into another level was a discussion I had with Ricky, who said that his mother used to add ribs as well as Italian sausage and/or meatballs to the marinara sauce as it simmers. Oh, my!

Oh, but wait…there’s more! What really pushed the discussion into “Oh, mah gah!” territory was when he told me that his mom would drop in some ricotta balls to simmer, too. What? Ricotta balls? Pray tell, what are the ricotta balls of which you speak? I did an internet search and came up with a recipe. Yeah, so an already darn tasty marinara sauce recipe, add a big old pork chop or ribs, some Italian sausage and/or meatballs and then simmer in some delicious delicate balls of tender ricotta. I know, right? Can you stand it?

Marinara Sauce

2 (28 ounce) cans imported Italian plum tomatoes with basil (preferably those labeled San Marzano )
1/4 cup fine-quality olive oil
2 ounces fatback or salt pork, optional
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Salt and pepper (to taste)
6 leaves fresh basil, torn, optional
Pinch dried oregano

Remove tomatoes from the can, reserving the juice in which they are packed. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes, gently remove and discard the hard core from the stem end, and remove and discard any skin and tough membrane. Set aside.

Put oil in a large, nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat. If using fatback, cut it into small pieces and add to the pan. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until all fat has been rendered. Remove and discard fatback.

Then add onion. Sauté for 3 minutes or until translucent and just beginning to brown. Stir in garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until just softened. Stir in tomatoes, reserved juice, and salt. Raise heat, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook for about 1 hour or until flavors have combined and sauce is slightly thickened. (If you prefer a thicker sauce, cook for an additional 15 minutes).

Stir in basil, oregano, and pepper, and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat and serve.


1 lb. or 15 oz. container ricotta
3/4 c. grated romano cheese
1/4 c. Italian bread crumbs
1 egg
1 qt. marinara sauce

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate several hours. Heat Marinara Sauce in 10 inch Dutch oven or wide pot. When simmering, form 9 balls from ricotta mixture and drop gently into sauce. After 10 minutes, turn balls with spoon. Cook 10 more minutes.