Finally Kitchen Cabinets

When we moved into this house we put a basic kitchen counter in the kitchen.  Several months later we added shelving underneath along with a wood work table.  It has taken me almost four years to decide what I wanted in the way of kitchen cabinets and finally a few weeks ago I placed the order.  Please first understand, if I did not have my neighbor and friend David Zambrano to assist me this would never come to pass. His contacts, artistic insight, innate ability to understand me, abilities as a maestro and supervisor, and his total acceptance of us make him and his family so special to us.  Today the cabinets have been installed and now I can finally put all my kitchen items in closed cupboards or up on a shelf and off the counters. Notice Helena, David’s wife and alter ego, in the first picture carefully watching to be sure everything is just right!

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Jorge and his crew did a beautiful job. We could not be happier at how the cabinets turned out. IMG_2895

It took both Joe and I most of Sunday to figure out where everything should go. Below is the first draft, you know I will need to make a bunch of changes before I am totally pleased with how everything is placed.

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Tropical Garden

We have several projects going at our home in the past few weeks. Last week the bamboo fence around the yard was completed. Billy and his son worked hard to get it just right and we bid farewell to these wonderful craftsmen.

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Over the past week the bamboo has soften to a beautiful tan color from the original green from the fresh bamboo.  Billy and his son sprayed it for bugs and then sprayed it with a varnish.

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When Will the Shaking Stop?

It was 42 days ago. Just a short 6 weeks. Joe and I were getting ready to move to the bedroom and read for a while before going to sleep. I was standing in the kitchen and Joe was in the computer room. Then the shaking started, things started to crash to the floor and Joe running grabbed my hand and we found ourselves out on the driveway shaking. Not from being scared but because the quake was still moving us about.

That was a time that will never totally be erased from our lives.

Today as I look at two pair of shorts sitting on the couch near the front door, a bag packed with our personal papers sitting ready to be taken out, it reminds me that every day for the past 43 days we have had some sort of earthquake or aftershock.  Yes, Joe and I and our neighbors made it through it with little physical harm to ourselves or our homes but the stress we still feel is unbelievable. We’ve been through a number of earthquakes previously, but nothing like this in its violence and duration. Lifelong Ecuador residents said the same.

If a shutter rattles, an almond fall from the tree onto our roof or a wall creaks we are both jumping to run outside.  If I turn over in bed during the night I feel Joe tense up.  I can’t imagine how those who lost a loved one, lost their home with all their belongings or were injured feel when they feel yet another aftershock.

I never totally understood Post-Tramatic Stress, I totally get it now!

 

Easy Grape Jam

I really miss grape jelly and jam. But I found a very easy recipe for a jam that is fresh with a great taste.

Grape Jam

  • 2 lbs. fresh dark purple grapes
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter (the butter will stop foam from forming on your jam)

Wash and drain the grapes. Mash them a bit with your hands or a potato masher. Add sugar, lemon juice and butter. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes stirring often.  Drain using a fine mesh strainer and using a pestle or back of a large spoon squeeze all the juice out of the seeds and skin. Discard seeds and pour the juice back into the saucepan to cook for another 20-25 minutes. Take a small dish and place in the freezer.  After 20 minutes of cooking take a small amount of the jam and place on the frozen dish, if it spreads out you need to cook longer. If it sets up you can jar immediately.  Make sure your jars and lids have been serialized.  This recipe should make two – eight ounce jars, refrigerate.

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Fast, easy and fresh.

Georgia Style Boiled Peanuts

Often Gonzalo, the veggie and fruit vendor, has raw peanuts for sale. We love hot Georgia style boiled peanuts and today he had bags and bags of them ready for me to cook up.

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Georgia Style Boiled Peanuts

  • 2 pounds of raw unshelled peanuts
  • enough fresh water to cover the peanuts completely plus 2 inches more
  • 1/2 cup sea salt (do not use the salt with fluoride added)
  • 2 tablespoons mesquite seasoning or other seasoning mix could be Old Bay or your special blend
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper flakes

Wash the peanuts until the water runs clear. Peanuts are covered in mud and need to be cleaned well, scrub them together with your hands and flush several times with water.  Add peanuts, water to cover and spices to your pot and put on to boil. It can take several hours of boiling but check after 1 1/2 hours and see if the peanuts are soft.  Mine were done in 1 1/2 hours.

Drain and go crazy.  They are wonderful especially still warm.

My Mother’s Day Treat

Our neighbors, Erica and Jhon have the most precious four-month old baby boy. While I was having him visit at our house on Mother’s Day Joe took this picture.  He is just so precious and because I have missed holding my niece Jackie’s baby Ava and my other niece Samantha’s two beautiful babies Corrine and Anthony I am getting my Great Aunt lovin from Jhon.

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Could you just eat him up…and at only four months he is standing and kicking his feet like he will be walking very soon.

Sweet Pickle Relish

Both Joe and I grew up using sweet pickle relish in our tuna, elbow macaroni and egg salads so when I looked for it in Mi Comisariato and saw the price I decided that I needed to learn how to make some from scratch. Cucumbers and onions are inexpensive here and how hard could it be to chop them up, add some sugar and vinegar?

Well, not hard at all. Here is my recipe:

Sweet Pickle Relish

  • 8- 10 medium-sized cucumbers
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 2 large green or red peppers (red peppers look nicer in the jar)
  • 1/4 cup of sea salt

Peel and de-seed cucumbers, de-seed peppers and put in food processor, I used the disk that shreds this time and it gave it more of a texture instead of using the chopper which made it very fine.  Chop the onion. Add 1/4 cup of sea salt, please do not use the salt that has fluoride in it.  Add cold water to cover all ingredients and set aside for 2 hours.

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Next make the pickling base:

  • 2 cups of white vinegar
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

in a large pot add the above 5 ingredients bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved.

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Now take your cucumber mixture and drain and squeeze moisture out and add to sugar mixture bringing back to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

 

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Clean and disinfect about 7 pint jars and lids. Fill jars, clean rims and put on lids. In a large pot half filled with boiling water place all jars and bring water back to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water bath and let cool covered with a dish towel out of a draft.  The lids should pop and be slightly indented, if they are not refrigerate and use within two weeks.

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Joe wants to know, “Now, where’s the hot dogs and mustard!”