SShhh it’s a Secret do not tell anyone…but your closest 100 FB Friends.

So many restaurants and some have secret menu’s. If you weren’t happy with what they display on their shiny billboards or slick menu’s you have options!

For example – In and Out Burgers. I adore these burgers and stop at one anytime I head down to California. We’re all familiar with the Double Double and Animal Fries but there is so much more! Here is a link for you see all the different ways you can order burgers, non-burgers, fries condiments you name it! Secret Menu

Being an Oregonian I must learn to embrace the coffee experience. Up here when I tell folks I have but one cup of coffee in the morning, and water the rest of the day, they look at me like I’m purple. Seems Starbucks has a very secret menu too. Secret Menu

Smoothies are one of my favorite snacks (makes a mental note to add a blender to my wish list). So when in town I hit Jamba Juice. They have a whole slew of flavors not on their menu billboard. Secret Menu

My daughter turned me on to Chipotle. I love their rice. Their burrito’s are massive and no way can I eat a whole one. So if I’m gonna go for it and leftovers of all leftovers I’m gonna go BIG. And what’s bigger than a Burritodilla! Secret Menu

I was amazed at how many places have secret menu’s. So before you head out to your favorite establishment to order the same ol’ thing, you might want to check if they have something yummy on a secret menu.

Don’t feed the birds!

So I read a post today that the with the inclement weather the birds are having a difficult time finding food and water.  I love how everyone has rallied to put food out and water, taking care to ensure it doesn’t freeze over.

I wish I had heeded my own comments, which were, “I cannot put out bird food as it would be like putting out a vending machine for my husbands cat. (We don’t own a cat)”

However, I caved. I saw the little birds, a family I think. Small, cute, looks like miniature robins. A male and 2 females. So I waited until I knew Ranch Cat was asleep in the garage and then I put out a small smattering of seeds.

Judge – So you willingly put out seeds knowing full well the killer was in the vicinity.
Me – Yes your honor. But in my defense…
Judge – Quiet…you do understand the killing instinct of your cat yes?
Me – Um, well your honor it’s my husbands cat. I don’t own a cat. And, yes, I know they love to chase and pounce on things.
Judge – You are GUILTY of murder!

He’s right, I am, and so much more…

In the time I fed these little birds (a time period of 2 days) the following has occurred.

1 – Ranch Cat brought one bird into the garage and left it at the back porch. Small bites had been taken but the bird was not consumed. Feathers all over the the steps.
2 – Ranch Cat brought in yet another bird to the garage, this time she consumed it and a LOT of feathers were left on the back steps that made their way in to the house.
3 – Ranch Cat brought in a third bird that got away, within the garage (still to be located). It hopped/flew around until it got behind a large shelving unit.
4 – Ranch Cat then went out and willfully caught and brought in a mouse to the garage. In the process of displaying her newest find, Ranch Cat while playing with said mouse heard the 3rd bird begin to make noise. She then stopped playing with her new toy and went to investigate her old toy. Said mouse, realizing his good fortune made his get away.

Not wanting our garage to become mouse country safari, hubby captured the mouse and took him outside and release him. This is where it all went down hill.

He tossed the mouse back near where Ranch Cat found him. But the mouse, now in shock from being caught by a cat, then by a human and unceremoniously tossed into the snow went into shock. He just laid there in the snow, breathing hard and then slower. I couldn’t stand it. So I picked him up by his tail and put him on the mound of dirt I believed to be his home. There is the defining moment when you know you have to do the right thing, and I did it. “Kitty Kitty!! Din-Din!” She comes running with a confused look of “I know it’s close to dinner time but you never feed me out here. Yet you never lie when you yell Din-Din you always have food.” And she came a running. She bounded once again across the snow and it was there I guided her to the mouse. She pounced and ran off with him. She stopped on the back patio and ate her prize.

You know it’s ranch living when you feed a live mouse to your (husband’s) cat. By the way, the third bird is still somewhere in our garage….the hunt continues.

A time to plant a time to reap…

Ok so it’s a little early for planting and reaping, but  it’s not too early to start planning. As this year will be a new experience for me, what with taking my Master Gardener’s course and growing much of my veggies in a greenhouse this year, I also plan on taking it a step farther and making sure my seeds and/or seedlings are all GMO free and Heirloom.

Here is a great link for those who would also like to grow only the best veggies. It is alphabetized by state – Heirloom seed providers.

Did you know you should plant your fall garlic during a specific moon cycle? I sure didn’t.

Contact your local Master Gardener offices for information in your areas. They have a plethora of information about new pests/control, upcoming events like plant sales to help get you started and wonderful staff members to help with all your questions.

Thanks to the Douglas County Master Gardeners for helping me with so many of my questions. The extension program is a wonderful community to be a part of!

Walking in a Winter Wonderland…

So this year winter has come a lot earlier to our ‘Green Acres’ than expected. We got about 4 inches of snow in one day. Last I heard we lived in the “banana belt” of Oregon. Not too cold, not too hot. A nice amount of rain, but nothing like what Portland gets and just a sprinkling of snow. Last year we had 2 snow days, and it melted within 24 hours. So between last years winters and this year, I present to you – Our Green/White Acres in all it’s splendor.

I found some wild tracks…

Wild Tracks

Wild Tracks

But it just turned out to be Ranch Cat. I am so glad her natural camouflage finally kicked in.

Ranch Cat's camouflage finally comes in handy.  2013

Ranch Cat’s camouflage finally comes in handy. 2013

The frozen ranch 2012.

The frozen ranch 2012.

Our front yard 2012.

Our front yard 2012.

The Sunrise in 2012.

The Sunrise in 2012.

Snow is really coming down! 2013

Snow is really coming down! 2013

Even our bridge is iced over

Even our bridge is iced over 2013

We have rain chains on our back patio. (Rain chains are alternatives to a downspout.) But when the snow started melting because of our fireplace, and then the temperature dropped…well we got this.

These chains are about 10 feet long.

These chains are about 10 feet long.

This icicle is is about 10 feet long and 2 inches in diameter.

Ice Chains are one giant icicle 2013.

Ice Chains are one giant icicle 2013.

Our Green...er..White Acres

Our Green…er..White Acres

So Derek just relit the fire, I have a new book…I bid you a warm and cozy goodnight.

The Bartender will see You Now

I enjoy my cocktails. That being said I think others should as well, but many won’t step away from the wine glass or beer mug because they had a bad cocktail and assume they are all horrible.

This is not true! There is redemption to be had. So if you’re feeling adventurous I’d like to share with you some of my all time favorites. The recipes with these concoctions are my own, some extremely simple, and a few ‘ornate’.

A bar does not have to be elaborate, a few simple key ingredients will find you pouring drinks that make you the envy of your friends.

First you will a couple of items to get you started –

A batch of simple syrup. Ok this may be tricky, you might want to stretch first. In a small sauce pan add 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. (breathe it’s ok you can do this!) Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, don’t let it boil. (it will go from cloudy to clear) Once dissolved remove from the heat and let it cool. That’s it! You’ve just made your first Bar ingredient. Wait wait don’t drink that..it’s not good..well not yet. We have to doctor that up a tad. Once you’ve made your cocktails be sure to store your simple syrup in the fridge. It’ll keep for about a week or so.

The next item you’ll need is a shaker. This lets you quickly chill your drinks and you can strain the ice and other items out or pour the whole thing in the glass leaving it “on the rocks.”

A long metal spoon for stirring. It’s good to get a bartenders spoon as it has small slots in it which is very useful for getting cherries, or olives out of the jar and leaving the syrup/brine. (That being said you will also need one TO get the syrup/brine out so that would be one with no slots)

A shaker, whatever style you like! Here are the two I have, a regular shaker and a Boston shaker  –

Standard Shaker

Standard Shaker

Boston Shaker

Boston Shaker

You will also need a measuring device for the spirits. I recommend the double jigger as seen here. The large side is 1.5 ounces and the small side is 3/4 of an ounce (an ounce if you pour to the very top)

Jigger

Jigger

Side Note – For making cocktails I do not use small ice cubes. I use the cubes that come out of my ice maker in my freezer (because having ones from my oven would just be silly).

Let’s get to pouring!

Vodka Gimlet – You will see many recipes calling for Roses Sweetened Lime Juice. This is ‘ok’ in a pinch. But if you want a really good gimlet then get some fresh limes asap. (juicy ones, not hard ones, you won’t get hardly any juice from them)

2 jiggers of good vodka
1 jigger fresh lime juice (more or less depending on how much lime you like)
1 jigger simple syrup (again more or less if you want it sweeter or less)
Ice

Pour all the ingredients into a shaker and shake for about 15 seconds. Pour contents into a highball glass.

**Variation – substitute Pom (pomegranate juice, not liqueur) for the simple syrup.

Vodka Gimlet

Vodka Gimlet – Photo Courtesy Martha Stewart

Gin Martini –

2 jiggers of good gin
Small Splash of vermouth (If you want a dry martini less vermouth and if you want a very dry martini just hold the bottle of vermouth up the shaker and say “See the vermouth?”)

Add ice to shaker along with gin and vermouth and STIR for 20 seconds. Do not shake a gin martini. You only shake a vodka martini. You don’t want to bruise the gin. Seriously I’m not making this up! Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with green olives or lemon twist.

**Variation – substitute vodka for the gin to make a vodka Martini. For a ‘dirty’ martini add 1-2 teaspoons of the olive juice to the shaker and shake for 20 seconds. Do not stir a vodka martini or it won’t get cold enough.

Gin Martini

Gin Martini

So there you have 2 very simple cocktails. I am a vodka kinda gal and Derek loves the botanical flavors of gin.

Let’s get crazy shall we? These next 2 drinks do require some extra or unusual ingredients. All can be found at your local grocery store or liquor store. Unless you live in Oregon, like me, then you make a run for the California border and hit the liquor stores there. Trust me, I’d rather not take out a second mortgage on my home if I don’t have to.

Bloody Mary – Yes we’ve all had them, some are great, some are garbage. Mine? Great!

For EACH Bloody Mary you will need –

2 jiggers vodka (You can use 1 jigger plain vodka and 1 jigger Peppar Vodka by Absolute which makes it more spicy)
1 tsp celery salt
7 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 turns of fresh cracked pepper tomato juice (you can use V-8 juice and get your daily serving of veggies. And what a way to get them I might add!)
Tabasco to taste (I like 5 dashes spicy, Derek likes 2 milder)

For a garnish I like to do a stick of celery, and a couple of big green olives on a long skewer.

In a tall glass add ice to fill 2/3’s of the way I love using pint size mason jars. Add all ingredients but tomato juice. Stir really well to combine. (about 15 seconds) Top glass off with tomato juice and stir to combine. It’s best to serve this with a long straw. Now some like to rim their glasses with salt, I’m not a big fan of this. However, if you are than by all means do so! For a nice addition try using a mixture bar salt and bacon salt.

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary – Photo Courtesy Katie Armour

A summer time favorite, but really good anytime, is Sangria. Now this is for you wine drinkers who are leery to let go of the bottle. It’s time to put the bottle down and reach for the sippy cup.

1 bottle of a dry red wine (750ml) a Cab or Syrah works very well. Don’t get an expensive bottle because we’re going to mixing a lot of things in it and you won’t taste the finer nuances of the wine.

1/2 cup VOS Brandy
1/4 cup triple sec or any orange liqueur
2 TBS orange juice
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup simple syrup
1 orange – sliced thin
1 lemon – sliced thin
1 apple, or pear or peach cut into small thin wedges
You can even add a handful of green grapes or some sliced strawberries when they are in season.
1 (750ml) sparkling water (You can omit the simple syrup and use 7-Up instead of sparkling water) Just make sure whichever you use it’s well chilled first.

In a large container add all ingredients expect the sparkling water. Cover and let chill for about 3-4 hours. When it’s time to serve, you can ladle it out into wine glasses, that are about 1/2 full with ice or even pint sized mason jars top off with a big of the sparkling water (or 7-UP if you omitted the simple syrup) Be sure to get some of the fruit to add to the glass because it will look gorgeous!

Sangria

Sangria

Well there you have it, four of my favorite cocktails. Let me know what your favorite cocktails are!

The Cat Bringeth and I take it awayeth…

My morning –

Get up have coffee and some fried potato cakes. Look out kitchen window and see Ranch Cat sitting in the grass watching something. Her pose is somewhat relaxed.

Finish my coffee and breakfast and take the dishes to the sink. Ranch Cat is still out in the grass in her relaxed position. Her ears ever alert are listening to the rustle in the grass. She shows no concern.  There must be something out there to grab her attention.

Weather is cold and damp, fire is lit so I sit to read for a bit and finish book #2 of the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz. About 40 minutes have passed, and I’m curious. Yep she’s still sitting there. I put another log on the fire and glance back. Ranch Cat is gone. Rut Oh! I run to the garage in hopes of keeping her from bringing her new ‘toy’ inside. It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly nimble and fast I can move when I need to. And yet getting up in the morning I feel like I’m 90 year old. I’m too late. There she is in the middle of the garage playing with her new toy, which is very much alive and feisty.

“Whatcha got there kitty?” Yep I am actually waiting for to stay “Why it’s a mouse, it’s a gift I bring you…”

It’s at this moment I see that the mouse is not remotely injured and he’s a fighter. Stands up on his hind legs and tries to bite her nose. Ranch Cat finds this so amusing, grabs Rocky (yes I named the mouse Rocky because of his spirit) and hugs him close and rolls with him. As cute as all this seems there is the realization that she’s not going to kill it and will soon get bored with it, at which point it will be loose in my garage chewing thru things to make a nice cozy life for himself and future family. Not acceptable.

Ranch Cat is now tossing Rocky in the air, who squeals with joy..no I’m sorry that’s not exactly true, it’s what Ranch Cat thinks he’s doing, but really it’s pure rage. I believe he flipped her off at one point. I am grabbing a big rag with the intention of grabbing the mouse and taking it outside, way outside, and releasing him back to the wild. I have no gumption picking up rodents, snakes, lizards, crickets etc., but I do draw the line at spiders. Those will be furiously screamed at, ran from and have a husband sic’d on them for their destruction.

This is where we must cue the music to Keystone Cops. As I reach for Rocky, Ranch Cat senses something is about to happen and bats him across the room. I go for the mouse, he goes for the motorcycle parked in the garage. Ranch Cat thinks is is GREAT fun and pounces. Rocky makes under the tire and to a perfect position where Ranch Cat can’t reach him. I use a corner of the rag to goose Rocky out from under the tire, he makes a mad dash for anywhere but here and heads to the front of the bike, I jump up from my hands and knees  and scramble to the front, Ranch Cat is there like 2 days before I even got up and scares him back to the rear of the bike. We are in a standoff. I must invoke the power of that is the Whiskas, Ranch Cat’s favorite snack in all the world. Nooo she is resisting the scent of (looks at the bag) salmon chews.  Rocky sees his moment, he makes a bolt for the workbench, oh but Rocky I saw that gleam in your eye and I knew you’d try it. That is why I am standing right in his path. That’s it…just a bit closer. *SCREAMS* Never saw that coming, Rocky makes a bee line for the work bench but decides that going up my pant leg would be even better. I scream again and kick my leg, and seriously I think I literally heard Ranch Cat laughing.

Rocky is now under the work bench. There’s lots of stuff here for him to hide in. I get on my hands and knees looking under the giant tool chest, Ranch Cat wants to see too and gets in front of me. (I’m trying to spit her fur out of my mouth) I see him! He’s up against the wall and working towards the big wall shelves. If he gets behind there it’s over! I grab a stick and poke it in there, scares Rocky the other way, I scramble to the other side hoping he’ll pop out and I can grab him, although at this point I’m not so keen on it. Ranch Cat jumps up on my back for a better vantage point, get off me! Oh no..where’d he go? I don’t see him…I begin to slowly pull things out (and by the way I’d like to mention my husband is just standing there chuckling over all this saying ‘just let him go, she’ll catch him eventually) I don’t see him, but I know he didn’t make it to the wall cabinet. He’s got to be in something. Ranch Cat is having a fit and is now blaming me for letting her mouse escape. I’m actually arguing with her ‘well if you had killed like you’re suppose to we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

It’s when I pull out the shop vac and one of the extension tubes I realize “I got you!!” He was in the tube, and ran out but I was quicker and slammed the tube on top of him, no I didn’t kill him, it was the open end of the tube. Ranch Cat is so happy “oh that was great! Ok now give him to me…seriously I want him back, I promise I’ll eat him this time.” Nope you had your chance. So after all that work which was about 30 minutes of a vigorous work out Rocky was taken way outside and released to live another day.