Saturday, April 25, 2009

Happy Days and Happy Pics

I had a new adventure! Today (Saturday) I went to the Great Nebraska Mushroom Festival and hunted for morel mushrooms. It was rainy, freezing cold, muddy, early on a Saturday morning and much fun.

In case you're not familiar with morels, you can go here and get more information than you ever wanted.

It's a big deal here. There's a short window when you can pick morels and that window opened this weekend. Even though the ground wasn't over 50 degrees yet and it wasn't warm and rainy long enough and some flower hadn't bloomed yet (all part of the myth of when to find morels), we went hunting and were successful. Well, my friends were very successful with two big bags full. I did find about a dozen or so and was ecstatic that I didn't come home empty handed. Actually, my hands were overflowing as one of my friends gave me all of his mushrooms. I was excited because I had big plans!

I wish I had more photos for you, but I forgot my camera and my phone was dead. So, I took a couple of pictures when I got home.

I didn't collect the mushrooms in a plastic bag--heavens no! One must use a mesh bag because that way the spores can shake back onto the ground to ensure more mushrooms next year. But I didn't want spores all over my kitchen floor that I had just swept and mopped the morning before, so I put them is this trash bag to bring them into the house.

It's important to wash morels because, after all, you did just pull them out of the dirt a little while ago. People have definite ideas about how to clean these mushrooms, but I decided to follow the advice I got from the experts I met today. I split them in half lengthwise then soaked them in salty cool water and left them that way for over an hour. Yes, I said I soaked mushrooms in water, don't freak out. Have you seen these things? See all the those wrinkly crevices? Dirt and bugs hide in there, and the salt water kills the bugs. Al may have eaten bugs during his survival training, but he doesn't have to eat them at home. So here's the last picture of these little delicacies that I have, the mushrooms soaking:

It's important to slice them in half because the rule with morels is "if it ain't hollow, don't swallow." If it isn't hollow, it's poisonous so just throw it away.

So, what does one do with morels, you might ask. Well, I'll tell you what I did. Basically, anything you can do with mushrooms, you can do with morels, you just get a richer, meatier flavor. They're like little portabello mushrooms. I dipped some of them in egg then in Panko bread crumbs and fried them in an iron skillet full of butter to keep us happy while I made the entree. For that entree, I sliced up the 'shrooms, sauteed some finely diced onions and garlic in olive oil then added the 'shrooms and a splash of white wine. After some of the liquid had cooked down, I poured in a half-pint of whipping cream (oh yes I did), grated in some nutmeg, sprinkled in some salt and pepper and let that come back to a boil, turning the heat back down after I got big clear bubbles. I threw in a little fresh parsley, then poured it over some bowtie pasta. Even Al, who isn't really wild about mushrooms, loved them. He was most impressed and I was most pleased. And most tired. Good Lord was I tired. I've had a rough week with my MS, so trapsing around in the cold and rain might not have been the best idea, but it was totally worth it.

This is the best thing about being in military--you learn something new everywhere you move to. I'm already looking forward to the next Great Mushroom Festival.

So, I promised some happy pics. Of course, they're all about Cosette because pictures of the cutest dog in the world makes me happy.

First pictures at the dog park. Cosette loves to go, so we introduced my friend and her dog Topsy to it. Topsy is usually a little nervous around other dogs, but not here. They had a great time. Topsy is a cockapoo--cocker spaniel and poodle--obviously more poodle in the legs.

What a good girl coming when I call.

With spring comes mowed lawns and with mowed lawns comes green noses.

Cosette loves her new bed. Only $20 at Costco!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Contented Sigh

Right before winter, we had a deck built onto the back of the house. It’s lovely.

The deck is made with the compressed wood stuff and the pergola is cedar. It’s exactly what I wanted, and I spent most of the winter looking longingly out my window at the snow-covered deck, impatient for spring so I could enjoy it.

Well, spring is finally here. OK, so it’s not as warm as many of us would like, but it’s not freezing. Personally, I like highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. It just fits my “middlen” personality. Al won’t be happy until it’s near 80. It’s amazing we have lived together this long, what with him complaining about being cold and me complaining about being hot.

But it is spring, so it was time to buy patio furniture for our new deck. I had in mind what I wanted—a comfy, rattan love seat with 2 single chairs and a fire pit in the middle. And that’s what I got! Well, I didn’t get the fire pit (I lost that battle to Al), but we got a coffee table instead, plus an ottoman. It’s as lovely as the deck and looks wonderful.

When I first saw them, I told Al they were too “Floridian.” Then he flipped the cushions over to reveal a beautiful pistachio green and I was sold. Cosette loved them at first sight and quickly initiated them into the household like she did every other piece of furniture in the house.

So, this is my new favorite thing to do. I sit outside on my love seat and read or knit and enjoy a glass of wine. Just today, I sat out there and started a new cabled scarf with the most wonderfully luscious Rowan Felted Tweed yarn.

Right now, I’m typing this post as I sit out here. It’s tricky having the computer outside—the light has to be just right or you can’t see anything on your screen. The sun is just starting to go down. It’s not quite dusk yet, but it’s not daytime either. The wind is blowing, of course, making things just on the chilly side, but I don’t mind it. It calms down in spells, and I can feel the sun on my left cheek and neck, promising it’ll be warmer soon. I look up at one of the trees and see a red cardinal then notice there’s a fly teetering on the edge of my now-empty wine glass. I can hear the kids a couple of houses down playing basketball, and a woman behind us is vacuuming out her car. More signs of the season changing. There’s even a faint smell of someone grilling out. Now if that’s not a sign of spring, I don’t know what is.

I feel sleepy and content, and I don’t think it’s the wine making me feel this way. But with the smell of someone's dinner grilling, I’m also hungry, so I think I’ll wake myself up and reluctantly head inside. Oh well. There’s always tomorrow.