Out of Sorts

Catharsis

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Knitted, sewn together and felted (washed in hot water to shrink) and trimmed — the purse and change purse are done!

For some, a drink, a cigarette, a good session with an axe and a bunch of logs is a cathartic experience, one that helps to release emotional tension and that restores and refreshes the spirit. For some it’s the act of eating food or going for a long walk. The task is as individual as the person. For me, knitting, needlepointing, creating with my hands — cooking and eminently, writing all help me to clear my head. They help me to work through what is gnawing at me, causing me to dream less than pleasant dreams, to grit and grind my teeth at night and to get worked into a dither.

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When I was younger, a kid in high school, battling the demons of boy crazy adolescence, I’d write. And write. And write some more. Usually in a diary. A black moleskin bound notebook — no lock and key — just a place to let my thoughts and dreams drip off my fingertips with the tears that most often went with the words. At times I’d write poetry or a song. When I got done, the boy usually still did not like me, but I felt somehow better.

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In the throes of knitting-mania — pre Justin.tv

Today, writing has taken on a different process. When I began the Living the Justopian Life blog it was a rant about my impressions and very vocal opinions about how I thought Justin, Michael, Emmett and Kyle were building and managing Justin.tv. My God was I angry! I did not realize this until very recently. Uhhh, like today! Reflecting on the prolific posts of the past 11 months it’s now apparent that I was taking out my distress over being caught up in the big AOL layoff of ’07 in a blog. I may have felt better with each click of the Publish button, but clearly the victims of missing my day to day life at AOL did not. And why should they? But as JTV evolved, so did I.

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Tucked inside this purse is Writing the Wave, a book of writing exercises that I was making my way through just before I stumbled upon and lost myself in the world of JTV — I no longer needed a book of writing prompts. 🙂

I mellowed and just over 5 months ago, as I began my own nightly broadcasts, I became a kinder, gentler JTV-centric blogger. Now, as the culinary exploration evolves, the blog is moving farther away from day to day JTV summaries and on to cooking and recipes and descriptions to go along with the photos. And often, as of late, it’s become a place where I can let things drip off my fingertips once again, helping to take my mind off of what’s bothering me.

It’s all more peaceful, and probably much more informative. I mean, people that read this blog are mostly JTV fans and can clearly see what’s going on in the world of the lifecasters on the channel bar — you don’t need me to wrap up what you have already seen going on there.

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Last year, after leaving AOL I lost myself in knitting. I was a mad woman with needles. When all was said and done, I had created 30 – 40 handbags, bowls and wallets. Some I sold, most are sitting on the bed in the guest room waiting for a home, but when I finished each one, I had a sense of accomplishment and completion and whatever was eating at me disappeared with each click of the needles.

It was like a song. Clickity, clack, damn sadness, take that!

Aside from helping to straighten out my head, I was able to recoup the expense of the yarn, needles and finishing details and have enough to buy a nice lunch or dinner from time to time.

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When the wool is felted, it becomes soft — not scratchy and is a perfect scarf for bitter cold winter days

I recently finished up a purse for one of the women that does my hair, which I will deliver on Thursday. It took me two tries to get this one right, but when I finally got it completed, I felt as though I had not wasted hours and days doing nothing but staring at a computer monitor. This purse set is going to pay for 1/2 of my salon visit. Not stellar financially, but it certainly doesn’t hurt and while I was busy knitting, it allowed me to catch up on Gray’s Anatomy and to get absorbed in something other than the thoughts that make me wish I could turn back time.

Wash Day Monday

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Chicken brining

Thanks to my job at Williams-Sonoma, I learned a bit about New Orleans this month. We are featuring foods and products from New Orleans and as customers come in to shop, those from New Orleans are happy to share their experiences, taste samples of various recipes we made with ingredients for things like Red Beans and Rice and Banana’s Foster Trifle.

We were told that red beans and rice became a traditional dish on Mondays in New Orleans because it made use of the ham bone left over from Sunday dinner. Monday was typically wash day, and the beans could be simmered for a long time on the back of the stove while the laundry was being done.

When the customers sampled the finished product, we always got two thumbs up. I sampled it myself in the store a few times, but decided that today was my Monday washday at my house and that I would make a simple roasted chicken and a pot of red beans and rice. I am anxious to get it started.

Food is my other great cathartic task and today’s menu will give me great satisfaction I am counting on it to do just that.

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The roasted chicken with tooth picks placed in the wing tips to keep them from burning

Red Beans and Rice

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. smoked sausage (andouille) cut into ½-inch slices
  • 1 lb. smoked ham, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 lb. red kidney beans (preferably Camellia)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Steamed white rice for serving
  • Hot sauce for serving
  • Creole seasoning for serving

In a Dutch oven or in the stovetop-safe insert of a slow cooker over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the sausage and ham and cook until browned, 5 – 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage and ham to a plate.

Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 5 – 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the water, beans, bay leaf, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, sausage and ham and stir to combine, scraping up the browned bits from the pan bottom.

Bring the mixture to a boil. If using a Dutch oven, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans are stir, 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours. If using a slow-cooker insert, transfer the insert to the slow-cooker base, cover and cook on low according to the manufacturer’s instructions until the beans are soft, 4-1/2 to 5 hours.

Remove the bay leaf and discard. Using the back of a spoon, mash some of the beans against the side of the pan and stir to thicken the broth. Serve in individual bowls over steamed rice. Garnish each portion with a few drops of hot sauce. Sprinkle Creole seasoning on top if desired.

Serves 8 – 10.

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma, adapted from a recipe by Leah Chase, Chef/Owner, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, New Orleans.

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Andouille Sausage

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Sausage and Smoked Ham and the infamous Camellia Beans

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The only bean to buy for this traditional dish — Camellia Brand Beans

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Minced Garlic and a Fresh Bay Leaf

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Cook the sausage and ham until brown … about 10 minutes

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After the ham and sausage are browned, remove to a plate and sweat the onion for about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and just heat.

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These dried beans are so fresh they begin softening up within minutes of the water beginning to boil

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I added the home made creole spice mixture — about 3 tablespoons

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Dinner is complete — Roasted Chicken, Red Beans and Rice and Wilted Spinach with Toasted Walnuts and Parmesan

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Phyllo Tartlet Shells

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Key Lime Curd Tartlet with Home Made Whipped Cream — not too sweet

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4 Responses

  1. I think your knitting is beautiful. I especially love the scarf and the pink and yellow bag. They look so soft! I am glad you have several outlets (knitting and writing) to turn to when frustration arises. I have been in a rut since my mom passed away it seems. I used to write for fun (think journaling), and you have reminded me of how therapeutic it was and can be again. I think I will go to the bookstore and pick up a nice leather bound journal and start again….a new chapter so to speak. Thank you for your taking us (the JTV viewers) into a little piece of your day to day life and filling us with the joy of cooking, and writing…and just for giving us some fresh air! You are the best! Okay…my sentimental moment is done haha. Have a great day!

  2. Hi Nursehand,

    I hope you picked up a great journal and a great pen! 🙂 I have one I love from Italy, but after so many years on a computer, handwriting is not my thing. I even have trouble reading my own handwriting! LOL

    I’m now working on a throw rug, or what I will probably end up hanging on a big, empty white wall in my guest room. I hope it turns out well.

    “See” you in the kitchen!

  3. Hey Justopia! How are you? I haven’t been online all that much lately…I explained all about it in my last few blog posts if you want to check that out, it’s kinda too long to go into here. Justopia you are so talented, really you are! Not only are you a wonderful cook but you have made some beautiful creations with your knitting! Man those bags are beautiful!! Have you sold many of them? If you don’t mind…drop me an email and give me some details on what you have left and what you are asking for them. Thanks so much!!

  4. Hey Roxy!

    Thanks for checking in! I’ve got some inventory left. I’ll send you mail.

    “See” you in the kitchen!

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