Simplicity in the Kitchen

My most resent post was about finding a great, SIMPLE  custard recipe, via the internet.  The one before that was a post about a SIMPLE, albeit rustic apple pie recipe.

Today's post is in that same vein. . . SIMPLE!  

Sorry there is no pic of the easily peeled yellow squash!  

What you see here are two of my favorite kitchen gadgets!  The first is a Swiss made vegetable peeler.  While at the local fair last year, there was a man selling them and since my daughter has one and loves it, I bought one, too.  The peeler works like a charm - peeling is so very, very simple and it's like the proverbial hot knife cutting through soft butter!  And did you see the price?  Less than $8. . . a real bargain for a real simple utensil!

My cousin, a real foodie (she's been a personal chef), recommended this type of cutting mat.  As you can tell, it's really thin and it rolls up so it's easy to get the food off the mat and into the skillet or plate, etc. You wet the bottom of it to keep it from sliding around the counter top.  They come three to a pack - and have different food symbols on them so there is no concern about cross contaminating: fish/seafood; beef/chicken; fruit/veggies. I bought mine from Amazon for a fair price, but these pretty pastel ones are only $3.15 for a pack of three at, who are great folks to deal with!

A simple cutting mat that takes up no cabinet space - which is perfect for Cozy Little Cabin's cozy little kitchen!  ;)

So there you have it - one day a simple apples pie recipe, the next a simple custard dessert.  And day three my favorite SIMPLE kitchen gadgets.  

What are some of your favorite SIMPLE recipes, gadgets, etc.?

Until next time


Strawberries & Custard

I love a bargain. . . so when strawberries were $1.75 a pint, I bought THREE of them.  Remember, it's just my hubby and me, so I was going to have to either freeze some of the berries, or find some recipes to use them up before they spoiled.  

Actually, freezing was never a real option because we recently received FREE  venison and the freezer is pretty full.  I'm not complaining - the venison is the very BEST I've ever eaten - I just needed to find a way to use up the bargain strawberries before they went bad.

I used some in smoothies and added a few to salads, but was still looking around the internet for some recipes.   I found a lot for pies and cobblers, but since I'd just recently baked a little apple pie, I wanted something lighter and fresher.

That's when I found the perfect recipe from Rhonda over at "Down to Earth, a Blog About Simple Living".  Rhonda lives in Australia with her husband of 30 years and as the title of her blog says, writes about the simple life.  I was THRILLED when she recently posted a recipe for homemade custard.  That's exactly what I wanted - layers of custard and strawberries - light and fresh!

The recipe calls for cornstarch and after I made the custard someone commented on her blog that US cornstarch is different from what she uses and it was suggested to use arrowroot instead.  I have to say Murray and I thought it was just fine with the cornstarch, but next time will make the substitution and make our comparisons.  

We don't use much dairy as I have a real aversion to conventional milk (at least in the US)  and instead use Almond or Coconut Milk.  But since I had an opened carton of Mimic Creme, I used that instead.  It's a wonderful substitute made with almonds and cashews.  The addition of a farm fresh egg, sugar and Mexican vanilla resulted in a wonderful custard. 

Just what I was hungry for - a light & refreshing dessert!

Don't you love it when you finally figure out what you're REALLY hungry for?  Hop on over to Rhonda's blog for some more yummy recipes and inspiration about living a simpler life

Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without

Having been raised by Depression Era parents, I grew up not wasting food!  Mama always had a way to use leftovers, etc.  She could get several good meals from one good-sized chicken!  And so can I!

Anyway - since I'm getting 3# of organic Fuji apples tomorrow (and only 83 cents per pound!) I knew I better do something with the 2 1/2 apples I had in the refrigerator.   I found this very quick and easy Rustic Apple Pie recipe from Sprinkle Bakes.  

Quick and easy - don't you just love those kinds of recipes?  

There were no measurements given . . . just general instructions to toss cut and peeled  apples with some cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Put into pie-crust lined cast iron skillet, fold over extra dough, dot with a bit of butter and bake in 350 degree oven until done.  I don't think it could get any quicker or easier!  From the time I started cutting and peeling apples to putting it into the oven, was just less than 15 minutes!

Anyway - the author used 2 little mini skillets, but since I have only one, I used an 8 inch skillet instead.  Below is what it looked like with 2 1/2 fairly large apples.  Yes, it would have made a nicer pie with another apple - but we use what we have and make it work!  And my husband, who gets to come for lunch, was thrilled and had no complaints at all!

And I admit hers looka prettier with the course sugar sprinkled on top. . . . but I forgot and we enjoyed it without!   

You can use store-bought pie dough or use Sprinkle Bakes recipe.  Below is a favorite recipe I've used for years.  You make up a big batch of it and keep it in the freezer and it's ready when you want to bake a pie, saving yourself the time it takes to measure the ingredients and mix with the shortening.  It comes from the Make-A-Mix cookbook by Karine Eliason, which is filled with tons of homemade mixes.  Hmmmm - maybe I should started posting about some of our favorite recipes from it - one being Chicken Enchiladas.  

Below is the link to the book at Amazon.  Click on "look inside" and do a search for page 51 or Freezer Pie Crust recipe to see how versatile it is. . . . 

These apples are not burned - they are just coated with a lot of cinnamon and a little bit nutmeg.

Until next time - BON APPETIT!

Saturday's Activities

We spent Saturday at the Republican County Convention.  Well, I spent the morning there - my husband stayed for the whole thing.  Me?  I went home early, did some laundry and then picked up my friend's three kids.  She's been having some serious health concerns, so I took her kiddos off her hands for a few hours by taking them to a fun afternoon or running, playing and fishing!

It was a great ending to a very, super, crazy busy week!  And the best part of it all?  I was so tired, that I slept until 10:45 A.M.   I slept for almost 12  hours. . . . a true rarity for me!

One of Amanda's Three Half Men
With One of His Catches
Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, 
and then it is disgusting.
Dave Barry

One of Amanda's Three Half Men & My Friend's Youngest Daughter
Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers. Herbert Hoover

Young & Old Playing Together - Glad They're Not "Age-ists" ;)

Our Friend's House and Reflection at Sunset

The Fire From Across the Pond

Buzz: Don't worry, Woody. In just a few hours you'll be sitting around a campfire with Andy making delicious hot Schmoes. 
Woody: They're called "S'mores", Buzz. 

Immigration Injustice

Newlyweds. . . originally uploaded by Vera*Smith.
My Texas son and his Norwegian bride. . . when life was easier!  

Below is the English translation of a note Mira wrote about their first year of marriage.

If you have any ideas how to keep them together in Norway, please let me know!  
Their desire is to be able to travel back and forth between the U.S. and Norway., but when they're ready to travel, not because the government wants you out of the country!
Mira's note "2011"
The time is near 6 in the morning, and I still can't sleep.

I'm usually good at focusing on being in the present, but it is getting harder and harder. This is going to be long reading, I knew it when I decided to write.

This is our history in 2011-2012.

March 14, 2011 Kevin and I were married. We had not been together very long, just one year, but we were so sure that it should be us. We have something special together, something I have never found any other man. I have never doubted, not a moment, that this is my husband. My life partner.

As newlyweds, we wanted to visit family and friends in the United States, and then take a honeymoon along the coast of Norway. In April, we landed at Gardermoen, in good spirits and had the world to our feet. Together we could do anything! The plan was to figure out the rules to get Kevin in a job and I would work hard to get a final report on an insomnia/fatigue syndrome I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.

But first, honeymoon!

Kevin is a handyman, but the big passion is juggling. He has juggled since he was 6 years old and has broad experience as both teacher and artist. There are basically balls in the air that made his living. We had heard about different places it could be possible to get a job as a juggler, or teach juggling, but he is not picky, and had been fine to settle for driving forklift in a warehouse as well.

I got support money from NAV [social services], but was very tired of not getting through on the matter. NAV sent me to the doctor, the doctor sent me back to NAV, and back and forth it went for several years. In the meantime, I worked part time at a stressful job, and in the end I could not take it anymore. In agreement with NAV I traveled to Arizona to get some sunshine, and to just get away from it all for a little while. There I met Kevin.

We started out spending a bit of time with my parents at Kapp. There were some things that had to be arranged, like adding Kevin under my insurance policy before we went on. And we thought it would be fun to celebrate 17th May there (Norwegian national holiday). A good chance for Kevin to get to know my family and my culture. He was immediately recognized as in-law and well-liked by everyone.

17Th May we were working at Gjøvik Gård, Kevin juggled, and I painted the Norwegian flag on anyone who wanted it. It was an active day with lots of people who wondered what kind of odd couple we were. In the corner of my eye I saw that Kevin lost his juggling-balls a little too often, but it looked like it was part of his show.

Afterwards, he mentioned that he did not juggle too well that day. We had noticed it a few weeks earlier, but waved it away that it was probably jetleg from the flight.

A few days after this Kevin helped Harald lay roof-tiles on the shed. Kevin told me there was something odd about his eyesight, especially when he looked up and wondered if he needed new glasses. We noticed that he looked a bit uneven. And he became more uneven and unsteady, in the end he could not smile or have any form of expression on the left side of the face. Mum was worried that it was a stroke, and we ordered a doctor's appointment.

Doctor's appointment ended with immediate admission to Lillehammer hospital.

Hospital stay was tough.
Kevin went through a lot of tests, but especially the spinal tap was rough. He could not walk down a corridor without going into the wall since he only walked in circles to the left and never more than 5 meters [less than 20 feet] before he got tired and had to sit down. Mostly, he was out of his head, and I could not keep a normal conversation with him even if he was awake. We spent our honeymoon at the hospital motel where I took care of Kevin. I brought food, and sometimes I even had to feed him.
After one and a half weeks he was diagnosed.

Relapse-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

The doctor explained: It is a disease that attacks the central nervous system. It leaves scars on the brain that cause transient and/or permanent disabilities throughout the body. The patient may also have cognitive disorder, which means that the brain is not functioning properly. Some are confused and get personality shifts for shorter or longer periods, especially if they are not aware that it can happen. Some have few symptoms, others may end up as 100% disabled, where the spouse receives full-time job as a nurse.
Meanwhile as she explained, I sat staring at the table. It was a nice table. Shiny and polished with a small table cloth. I could see a knothole in the wood, and a small mark in the finish after a drop of water that had dried up there. I remember wondering who had spilled a small drop of water on the table.

The doctor got a phone call and had to run.

I looked at Kevin. He had red eyes and the tears ran down his cheeks. He stared at the wall, I stared at him.

So we sat there.
Kevin was not a juggler anymore and too ill to take another job.
I did not have regular income and my own condition was not diagnosed. Our only home was a small motor home built in 1986.

New problems emerged. Someone had to pay the hospital bill which amounted to 25 000kr. Kevin is not from an EU country so it was not a foregone conclusion that he gets medical care covered.
Then the bank called and said the insurance was not valid because he is not a member of the State.

The summer of 2011 was a nightmare in a paradise.
I extended my loan and bought a caravan which was parked on the shore of Stensveen. Then we had a little larger place. Kevin's medication did not help and he had to start using a crutch. He kept walking in circles to the left long after he was discharged, and when we hugged each other while we walked, it was to conceal the fact that I had to support him. He stopped wearing shirts, and began with sweaters, buttons where too difficult to handle.

An application for family reunification and residence permit on medical grounds was sent to the UDI [immigration control] with papers from the doctor that Kevin's treatment must be completed before he can go anywhere.

We also got strict instructions that Kevin can not take a job or leave the country for the 6-8 months it takes to process the case.

Then I got sick. A fever of nearly 40 [104 F] and could not retain fluids. This is the time we got the bill for another 25 000kr for Kevin's hospital stay. The application for postponement was sent and it was postponed until February of 2012.

It was now the good news came. Maya wanted to move to find the forest and would have us. We are so fond of Maya and feel we work well together. Kevin had just gotten a cortisone treatment and felt better. We decided to help Maya prepare the apartment for moving. A few days after we arrived in Sandnes, I got sick again and this time the fever rises to over 40. Now I am the one being in the hospital. It was a powerful antibiotic treatment for kidney inflammation that saved me. I spent the entire week I was going to help a Maya in the hospital.
Without painkillers.

Finally we moved to Finnskogen. We made friends, join the local theatre and I traveld back and forth to Kapp to go through psychological treatment to be forwarded to a sleep specialist.

Hospital bills are in order, we owe no money, thank goodness! And I got an appointment at Bergen Sleep Center. Then I have to cancel my appontment at Bergen Sleep Center. I was placed in the private section, I can't afford to pay for travel to and from Bergen, plus therapy, plus accommodation. I can't even afford new pants!
I restart again and the psychologist, who makes a new application to the Bergen that I must be on official department. Why should it take so much time just to start giving me a diagnosis?

Kevin's old medicine did not work, so he got tested on a new one that works much better. He can go more than 100 meters without getting tired, he staggers less and can even juggle a bit again!

Kevin, Maya and I established ourselves well in the woods, I'm looking for work I can do when my diagnoses is done. And Kevin wants a part time job when he gets a residence permit (i.e. is allowed to), he is tired of everyone having to take care of him and live on my rehabilitation money. He will also contribute financially to pay back a little to everyone who has helped him. Buying clothes, food, take me out to dinner, pay taxes!

We talk a lot about starting up our own business when all paperwork is in order so we can work together from home, get our personal economy stable, and just settle down.

That is when we get a letter from UDI.
Refusal of temporary residence permit and family reunification.
He must either file a complaint, or leave the country within 24 april 2012.

Refusal of family reunion because I do not earn enough money. I have to earn 225000kr a year to be allowed to live my life with my husband in my homeland.

Refusal of temporary residence permit because Kevin is not sick enough. MS is not considered a serious enough disease to provide a residence on human grounds. Although his central nervous system will be broken down without medication, medication he will not get in his home country.

We received the letter on March 28. I was completely put out, although I suspect that this was how it would be. It took me two days to “wake up” after the news. Two days where I could not focus on anything. I was completely apathetic. Then I was reminded that it's Easter, everything is closing! Lawyers will not work in this Easter more than others, we might lose a week where we can work with a complaint.

If we move abroad I have to start over again with a medical report, and I'll be honest, this year has taken awful lot of my energy. I do not know if I can start on something like that again if I quit now ...

This turned out to be a long read, congratulations to all of you who have read the whole thing!
We have met so many nice and positive helpers on our way, from some financial support, paperwork, used and new clothes, shoulders to cry on, warm hugs and words. Thanks to you all! I am so glad to have so many wonderful friends on my team. I hope it works out and Immigration is changing the rules so it is possible to be with those you love where the love and not economic terms are deciding if you should stay together.

The time is almost 8, I should try to sleep a bit.

This is not a unique story, please share as more people are becoming aware of the immigration system.


Kitchen Kat, originally uploaded by Vera*Smith.

I know I've been gone for a while. Holidays & a birthday, and graduation gift-making, and taxes have taken their toll on me.

Oh - taxes; oh how they make me sigh.

And I've had some business meetings; thankfully they are fun!

And there is my mom's declining health (vision).  No fun for either of us.

Oh - and lots of other stuff keeps getting in the way of blogging.

But I had to post this photo of my son's cat, Moragan. She never and I mean 
gets on the kitchen counters. But here she was this morning -
 waiting for me.

I finally figured out why. The tax documentation and all sorts of papers are on her favorite bench in the dining room.
 I think she was letting me know it's time to de-clutter!

Anyway - I've been too busy - making trips to out-of-the-way places, etc.

 I most assuredly agree with Socrates:
Beware the barrenness of a busy life