Thursday, October 31, 2013

Be a Halloween Crone, not a Menopausal Witch by Margaret Ullrich

A few years ago I wrote essays and stories and read them on the CKUW radio program '2000 & Counting - Older and Wiser'.  Sometimes the essays were about aging.  
This was the essay I wrote for Halloween 2001. 
If I were writing it now, I would have added: 
As Katy Perry sang:
I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar!!! 

         Happy Halloween!  I can't believe how fast this year went.  According to the news, the kids want to dress up as firemen and policemen instead of as ghosts and witches.  Well, traditional things are still with us, it's just more likely that the Moms of the trick or treaters are using them.  Harriet Nelson and Beaver's Mom, Mrs. Cleaver, didn't have the choices we have now.

         Back in the fifties, my parents, being good postwar immigrants, sent me to a parochial school.  They didn't object to the American melting pot.  They just wanted the good sisters to keep me from melting too quickly.  

        The sisters taught basic Catholicism and they had extra rules to protect girls from the spawn of Satan, better known as Catholic boys.  Rules like: never wear patent leather shoes because boys could see under our dresses.  

       And they really worried about what we put into our mouths.  We were told to eat a thick peanut butter sandwich and drink 4 ounces of oil - crisco, olive, whatever - before going to a party.  The sticky goo would keep us fat and sober.  And, at the party, we were to watch the soda being poured from a freshly opened bottle.  If we put our soda down, for any reason, whatsoever, we must never, never, ever pick up the same glass.  We never knew what some wise guy might put in there.  So warned, we went out to date and mate.  
        Those rules stuck.  You could always spot a Catholic girl.  There was the scent of peanut butter that Revlon's Intimate couldn't quite mask.  And there'd be a dozen barely sipped paper cups littering the table.  Cool we weren't, but we knew how to keep ourselves healthy.

        Or so we thought. 
        Now we're middle aged and facing menopause.  THE CHANGE.

        Okay.  We went through a change once before.  There were two options.  Either pad or tampon.  

        So here we are again facing a change and two options.  We can either remember Sister telling us to offer up our sufferings for the poor souls in Purgatory or we can wimp out and go on estrogen replacement therapy.

        Or so we thought. 

        We've got another choice our Moms didn't have.  No kidding.  Go to any book store or library and you'll find a growing section called Women's Health / Spirituality.  It's a wild mix of basic vitamin information, more exotic herbal remedies, ancient Goddess religions and Native American Spirituality.  

        You'll find titles like: Making Sense of Menopause, The Silent Passage, Menopause Naturally, Natural Menopause, Midlife Meditations for Women, Venus after 40, Woman at the Edge of Two Worlds, Moonlore Myths and Folklore, Finding Your Own Spiritual Path, and A Wisewoman's Guide to Spells. 

        Get the picture?  It's an easy slippery slope from staying healthy to getting the power to rule the world.  We're becoming Crones... women who hold their wise blood... shamans... the final phase of the moon.  Uh, huh. 

        Some of the information is handy.  Have vaginal dryness?  Can you say vitamin E capsule?  No, don't swallow it.  We're not talking about a sore throat.  That's right - you've guessed it.  Trust me, after you've inserted vitamin E and gotten your groove back, the gloves'll come off and you'll be eager to try other ancient herbal remedies.

        And there are dozens of them.  You don't have to go digging by the light of the moon in your neighbor's garden or Assiniboine Park.  There are dried herbs, powders, pills, lotions and potions available at every pharmacy and supermarket.  You can collect air miles or points, as you battle time's march across your face.

        Back to those books... Lynn V. Andrews is a popular women's Health/Spirituality author who writes about ceremonies from the Sisterhood of the Shield.  These aren't exactly tribal customs and traditions with a long, uh, tradition.   There are fun filled ceremonies with handy hints for creating your own.  All you need is candles, incence and snacks.  Invite the neighbors over.  It's more fun than a Tupperware party. 

        Ladies, Halloween is our time.  The crone or hag traditionally makes her appearance at Samhain, the original name for Halloween.  

        Remember how invisible middle aged women are?  Trust me.  If you stand buck naked and howl at the full moon, everyone will notice you.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Anna Sultana's Stewed Octopus, Maltese Style

Last August I posted Ma's recipe for Stuffat tal-Qarnit.
Qarnit is Maltese for octopus. 
For many the stew recipe was something fun to read.
Octopus just isn't common here on the bald prairies.
Or in most other places, I would imagine.

Octopus is the stuff of legend.
And sometimes the stuff of science fiction.
I hope you've seen It Came from Beneath the Sea.
It's a dandy 1955 Sci-Fi film about a giant octopus that attacked San Francisco. 

If you must, go to the frozen food section for a bag called Seafood Combination.
In a pinch, it's not bad.
There are tiny octopus tentacles in it.
Not quite the same, but beggars can't be choosers. 
But maybe not being able to get fresh octopus is not a bad thing.

Octopus needs to be cooked a good long time. 
With the Seafood Combination you can skip the cleaning, washing, cutting and cooking. 

Seafood Combination only needs to cook for about 30 minutes.
So add it after the sauce (with the olives and capers) has simmered for 30 minutes.

                        Stewed Octopus

Clean and wash
octopus, about 2 pounds
Cut in small portions.
Simmer in salted water until tender.

While the octopus is cooking, start the stew.

In a dutch oven heat
2 Tablespoons olive oil 
2 large onions, sliced
Fry until golden.

8 ounces tomato paste
1/2 Cup water
Stir into the onions.

1 pound tomatoes, quartered
Simmer until the tomatoes are mushy.
the prepared octopus
6 olives, chopped
1 Tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon pepper
Simmer for 1 hour.

Serve the sauce with spaghetti or rice.
And while watching It Came from Beneath the Sea.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Spice Blends: From Fish Seasoning to Salads and Noodles - Margaret Ullrich

There are a couple of new commercials about a young woman adding a mix to a pound of ground beef to make a meal.
They are trying to make an honest buck, I guess.
But, really, what's so special about that?

Still there's nothing special about making mixes to add to other ingredients.
You don't need a degree or years of study.
Just a few spices.

This Spice Blend is delicious with fish.
But, there's so much more you can do with it!
A bit of oil and vinegar and you've got a salad dressing.
Some butter and you've got a tasty topping for pasta.

And all you need is paprika, cayenne, ground marjoram, thyme and basil leaves.
And of course, salt and ground black pepper.
But you knew that already.

Fish Seasoning Spice Blend

1/4 Cup paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon basil leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground marjoram
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1/16 teaspoon ground black pepper

Makes about 4 Tablespoons

Fish Seasoning can also be used to make 

Salad Dressing Spice Blend

Combine in a small jar
1/2 teaspoon Fish Seasoning
1/16 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 Cup salad or olive oil
Cover and shake well.
Let stand 1 hour.

2 Tablespoons wine vinegar
Cover and shake well.

Serve over vegetable salads.

Fish Seasoning can also be used on pasta.

Seasoned Butter Spice Blend for Noodles

3 Tablespoons butter
Add and blend well
1 Tablespoon Fish Seasoning
1/16 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook according to package directions
8 oz. package of noodles
Drain and toss lightly with seasoned butter.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spice Blends: Tandoori, Curry, Chinese Hot Mustard - Margaret Ullrich

I live in the north end of Winnipeg.
My neighbours are a pretty diverse bunch, ethnically speaking.
One thing we have in common is having to make dinner for the family.

Kids are great at loving to try something different, food-wise, especially if their friends are eating it.
There are worse things they can want to do.

One day when I was getting groceries, a Filipino mom approached me and shyly showed me a few bags of different grated cheeses.
Seems her kid wanted tacos and she wasn't sure which was the right mix to get.
And at least once a month I can see my neighbour, an East Indian Mom, tossing out a few boxes from a local take out pizza restaurant on garbage day.
So it goes.

If your kids would like something Asian for dinner, no problem.
Just buy a few bags of cumin, coriander, turmeric, allspice, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, and cardamom.
And don't forget the powdered mustard and dry minced garlic.
Easy enough, and they are delicious in other recipes, too.

Tandoorie Spice Blend

1 1/2 teaspoon dry minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Makes a scant 1/2 Cup

Homemade Curry Spice Blend

2 Tablespoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons ground coriander
4 teaspoons powdered mustard
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon cayenne 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Makes 1/2 Cup

Hot Chinese Mustard
Mix mustard powder with water (or vinegar, or a mix of the 2)  
Let stand 10 minutes

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Spice Blends: Fajita, Chili, Taco Seasoning Mixes - Margaret Ullrich

Years and years ago a local department store named Eaton's had an annual event.
It was meant to bring a bit of warmth to our Winnipeg winters.
They called it Eaton Uncrates The Sun.

Every year, usually in February when we were truly good and sick of winter, the managers would pick a sunny spot and try to recreate it, complete with decorations, food and cooking demonstrations.
One year they picked Mexico.
For a nickel we could try a tiny taco.  Wow!!

This was before we could find burritos in our frozen food section.
It was quite an adventure, tasting our first tacos.
For a few hours we had escaped the cold.
Okay… it didn't take much back in the 1970s and 80s.

There are packets of mixes to turn a pound of ground beef into something Mexican.
But really you can make your own for a lot less.
Chili powder, cumin, oregano.
Crushed dried red pepper, dry minced garlic, and dry minced onion.
Easy to find in the spice department.

And easy to combine.
So do it.

Fajita Seasoning Mix

4 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground oregano
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon salt

Makes a scant 1/2 Cup

Chili Seasoning Mix

2 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons dry minced onion
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper
1 teaspoon dry minced garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Makes 1/2 Cup

Taco Seasoning Mix

1 teaspoon cornstarch
4 teaspoons dry minced onion 
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper
1 teaspoon dry minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Makes 1/2 Cup

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spice Blends: Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie, Sugar & Spice - Margaret Ullrich

The holiday baking season is here.
And that means spices.

A couple of years ago spice companies started selling prepackaged spices for recipes.
I don't know if you've seen them in your spice shelves.
Really… a teaspoon of this, a teaspoon of that.
And they charge an awful lot just because they hired someone to go to the trouble of spooning out the spices and put them in little plastic pouches.

Well… you can make your own.

The cheapest way to buy spices and herbs is getting an individual spice in a bag.
And then blending them yourself and storing the mixes in a jar.
Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cardamom can be bought in bags and used as is or combined in blends.

You can have some fun with the money you save.
Or buy some Christmas gifts.

Apple Pie Spice Blend

1/4 Cup cinnamon
2 Tablespoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Makes 1/2 Cup
Apple Pie Spice would also add a nice touch to apple cobblers and warm apple sauce.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

1/4 Cup ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoons ground allspice

Makes a scant 1/2 Cup
Pumpkin Pie Spice also goes nicely on the mashed sweet vegetables and onions.

Sugar & Spice Christmas Blend

1/2 Cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Makes a scant 2/3 Cup
Sugar & Spice Blend is perfect for rice pudding or egg nog.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Anna Sultana's Aljotta - Fish Soup, Maltese Style

It's almost November.
Light salads just aren't going to satisfy anyone's appetite.
It's definitely time to start making soups.

As we've been doing fish recipes, I thought I'd post a fish soup recipe.
This recipe is a bit of a hassle.
Well, the 'removing the bones from the cooked fish part' is.
But the soup is delicious.
So it goes.

Just so you know... Mackerel is nice in this recipe.
But, I had posted about problems with mackerel.

Ma told me they also used a fish called boops boops, or bogue, in Malta.
No we didn't have boops boops in New York.
And definitely no boops boops here in Winnipeg.
No, I would not ask the fellow in the fish department for boops boops.
He's laughed at me enough over the past four years.


As soup is always best the second day, why not double the recipe?
You can have a second meal set for another day.

The bones in canned fish are safe to eat and don't have to be removed.
Perfect for when you're in a rush.
And who isn't?

Bruschetta (garlic bread) would go nicely with the soup.
It toasts just as well if you use the broiler.


Serves 4

In a dutch oven heat
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Fry over a low heat
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 pound tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon mint
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Cup water
Bring to a boil.

2 pounds fish, cleaned
Simmer until the fish is done.
Remove the fish from the pot.
Remove the bones from the fish and return the fish to the broth.

1 Cup water
1/2 Cup rice
Cook until the rice is done, about 20 minutes.

1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anna Sultana's Tuna Pie, Maltese Style

About a week ago I posted Ma's recipe for Baked Tunny.
Looks like it's become a popular recipe.
It's one of the month's top posts.
That's great to see.

That post has some information on big tunny and little tunny. 
Yes, there is such a thing as little tunny.
I'm not making some kind of gangster joke.
Yes, I miss Carmela and the boys, too.

Fresh tunny, big and little, isn't easy to find in some areas.
Like around here in Winnipeg.
This being the bald prairies and all.

But, if you can get tunny here's another recipe.
And if you can't, so it goes.
You can precook a few thick slices of fish.
As this recipe calls for cooked fish, it's also a nice way to use leftovers.


If you're substituting canned tuna, do the math so you get about 500 grams 
(a little more than a pound).

If you've just caught a fresh little tunny, don't forget that they should be bled 
and iced soon after being caught.
After the fresh little tunny has been prepared, slice and fry the fish steaks in oil 
and remove the bones.
Then continue with the recipe.

Aubergine is another name for eggplant.
Some folks find eggplant has a bitter taste.
Slice the eggplant about 1/2 inch thick and place the slices on a paper towel.
Sprinkle the slices with salt and let sit 15 minutes.
Then wipe off the salted surface.
It helps.

The cauliflower should be cleaned and cut into florets, hopefully about the same size.
That way they'll cook evenly.

                        Tuna Pie

Serves 4

In a large saucepan fry
1 large onion, diced
4 large tomatoes, quartered
2 green peppers, chopped
1 aubergine, sliced and prepared (see above)
1 small cauliflower, prepared

500 g fresh tuna which had been cooked or canned
100 g green olives
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

grease 9 inch pie pan          
preheat oven to 400º           

Line the bottom and sides of the greased dish wish
with 3/4 of 400 g flaky or puff pastry

Spoon fish vegetable mixture into the pie dish.

Cover the mixture with the remaining 1/4 of the flaky or puff pastry.
Brush with 
milk or beaten egg
Prick all over with a fork.
Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuna pie is best hot.
But it's also handy for a picnic.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Four Year Anniversary! by Margaret Ullrich

Happy Fourth Birthday to I'm Turning 60!!
And THANK YOU for visiting, whether you're a daily, weekly or occasional guest.

I started this blog because I was going through some major changes.
In 2009 both my parents and our last dog, Bobo, died.
Funny thing about changes…
As soon as you get used to one change, another comes along.
But, somehow, you can get used to that, too.
So it goes.

I used to send Ma recipes, especially at this time of year when there are 
brochures and leaflets in the baking section of the supermarket. 
One of the things I enjoy about the I'm Turning 60 blog is that I can continue 
to share recipes and enjoy Ma's recipes, too. 
Ma, who only used the computer to play solitaire, is now googled for her recipes.
I still like to think she's getting a kick out of that, too!

Blogger has been keeping track of your visits since July, 2010.  
This past week I took a look at the numbers for the posts… yes, all 654 posts!
And, yes, there have been changes since last year.

Ma's recipes have grown in popularity.
Carmela Soprano's Baci Cake has gone from number one to number five.
Ma's recipe for Hobz (Maltese Bread) is now the all time most popular post!
If you haven't tried it, well, why not bake a few loaves this week?

Ma's recipe, Anna Sultana's Bebbux bl-Arjoli, is still number two.
Bebbux bl-Arjoli means Snails with Arjoli Sauce.
Yes, snails.
But the spicy Arjoli Sauce is good with seafood, too.

Other top recipes of Ma's are:
Qaghaq ta' l-Ghasel  (Honey rings)
Biskuttini tar-Rahal (Village biscuits, Maltese style cookies)
Torta tal-Lampuki - Fish and Vegetable Pie, Maltese style
Ravjul (ravioi, Maltese style)
If you haven't tried them, I hope you will soon.
Change can be good.

About Carmela… her recipes for Arancini (Rice Balls), and her recipe for 
are also among the top ten.
I'm curious to see if these will still be top favourite recipes next year.

Among the North American recipes, The 1960s Co-Op Refrigerator Cheesecake 
is still among the top ten recipes.
Do try the recipe for the 1930s Dollar Fruitcake from the Winnipeg Free Press.
Yes, it's posted in my Winnipeg is Better Than Chocolate blog.
But it's still a great Christmas recipe and has received over 400 visits!!

Blogger also keeps track of the top 10 visiting countries. 
The United States is still number one with over 76,000 readers.
And it is followed by Canada with almost 11,000. 

Last year the top countries also included: Malta, Russia, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Slovenia and the Ukraine.
There've been a few changes.
Now the order is: Malta, Russia, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Romania, Germany and Indonesia.

And there have also been quite a few visitors from Poland, Macedonia (FYROM), Mexico, the Netherlands, Afghanistan, Thailand, Spain, Slovakia, Ireland, Denmark, Bangladesh and China.

I expected Maltese in the United States, Canada, Malta, Australia and the 
United Kingdom to visit and use Ma's recipes.
The other folks were a surprise.
But I'm really glad you've decided to visit.

The biggest surprise the past year has been the number of visitors each month.
Up until February 2013 the numbers had slowly risen to about 6,000 a month.
I was quite happy to know 6,000 folks were visiting each month.
Then in March 2013 there was a sudden jump to 18,763.
Yes, 18,763 folks visited I'm Turning 60… in March!

There has been another development.
There have been spikes in visits during the months.
Spikes such as 1,083 visitors on June 13, and 1,087 folks on August 12 and 
1,760 visitors on September 22.

I don't know what causes the spikes.
Believe me, I'm not complaining.
I wish I had a clue so I'd know what you'd like to read.
Is it holiday favourites, easy meals, cheap meals, quick meals or…?
I just hope you have found the type of recipes you want.

I'd also like comments.  Really.  
It's easy to do.  Just click on Comments and write. 
Or message me on Facebook. 
Tell me what you want to know about. 

Thanks again for visiting!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Feng Shui and My Least Favourite Room, part 7 by Margaret Ullrich

Tonight is Full Moon number ten for 2013.
We had a lovely Thanksgiving on Monday.
And are still enjoying the leftovers.

The week before Thanksgiving we were enjoying mild weather.
Perfect weather for moving the plants in our yard.
So I did.

I had weeded our yard after we returned from Ottawa over a month ago.
The garden had been put to bed before the first frost.
The tomato plants uprooted, the compost spread.
But not pretty.

I decided to move some of our perennials to different locations.
Plants not thriving were moved to sunnier, or shadier, spots.
The hosta that was under our grapevine became a featured plant near the fence.
The nancies crowding the other hostas were moved to other - barer - spots.
I dug the tall plants, such as our lilies, and replanted them near the fences.
I spaded a half dozen cerastiums and spread them where the lilies had been.
I split some of the other ground covers and covered the remaining bare spots.

And, even if I do say so myself, I really like the new look.
The yard looks bigger.
I don't know why it took me so long to move the plants around.
Oh, well, better late than never.

About that cluttered room... I know I've been stuck on this project 
from Tisha Morris' book Feng Shui Your Life...  

Make your least favourite room your favourite.

The weather has turned, the leaves are falling.
It's not good weather for working outdoors.
Perfect weather for finally finishing that room.

According to the folks at
On October 15 Mars entered Virgo - If you've been hoping to make more progress on certain goals, you'll be able to do it this month as Mars enters practical, efficient Virgo… This transit gives you discipline and energy, which makes it easier to commit to plans or projects that require extra effort.

Tonight Aries is highlighted by a lunar eclipse… no sign is more courageous than Aries, so you're likely to have the necessary energy and passion to advocate for yourself. 

Oh, and by the way…  Mars will be in Virgo until December 7.  The ongoing Uranus-Pluto square is present during this eclipse, demonstrating that world-changing events continue to capture everyone's attention. 

I wouldn't call cleaning a least favourite room world-changing.
But I sure can use all the help I can get.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Anna Sultana's Baked Tunny, Maltese Style Fish

Looking for more fish recipes?
You're in luck.

Malta's an island and fish is a basic part of the menu.
Of course no one wants fish served the same way every day.

Which brings us to Ma's recipe for baked tunny.
Well, that's what she said sometimes when I asked, "What's for dinner?"

Being an immigrant is sometimes like being the Peter Graves character in Stalag 17.
Graves was the German spy who was passing as an American from Cleveland, Ohio.
Well, he was doing fine until he was asked when he'd heard about Pearl Harbor.
Graves said 6 pm.
Right time for someone who was in Berlin, Germany.
Wrong time for someone in Cleveland, Ohio.

I still get spotted as a former Yankee when it comes to terms like 'chesterfield'.
If someone points to a sofa, I automatically say 'couch'.
You never quite learn everything.

So it was with Ma when she served us fish.
Sometimes she'd just use terms she'd grown up knowing.
It was no big problem… her recipes were always good.

Bluefin tuna were called tunny, especially in the United Kingdom. 
Then there's the little tunny, found in the Mediterranean Sea.
The little tunny weighs around 35 pounds.
It's a hard life for the little tunny - everything, including seabirds - eat them.

Speaking of eating little tunnies…
They should be bled and iced soon after being caught.
They are perfect for baking and barbecuing.
Don't like a strong fishy flavor?
Remove the dark strips along the length of each fillet.

Tuna can be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. 
It can also be a source of mercury.
Nothing's perfect.


If you can't find tunny, use a nice thick piece of fish.
The baking time depends on the thickness of the fish.
If you got a particularly thick section, go long.
If you didn't, don't.

                        Baked Tunny

Serves 4

Combine in a bowl
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon mint
1 Tablespoon parsley

In a well greased baking pan place
3 onions, sliced
1/2 kilo potatoes, sliced
3/4 Cup water

1 kilo fresh tunny, cleaned (and bled, if necessary)
on top of the sliced onions and potatoes

Cover the fish with
1/2 kilo tomatoes, cut into halves
Sprinkle over the tomatoes
the spice mixture

Drizzle over the spice mixture
1 Tablespoon vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Bake in a 350º F oven for about an hour.
Serve with a cooked vegetable.
A nice crusty bread would be good, too.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Coloring a Laser-Art Structure Using Eye Makeup by Margaret Ullrich

If you've been thinking of starting a hobby, but don't want to go to much expense 
(who knows, you may end up hating the hobby), this might give you some ideas.

The following article was recently published both in the United States in The Thousand Lakes Region of the National Model Railroad Association's publication, 'The Fusee', and in Canada in The Winnipeg Model Railroad Club's publication, 'The Lantern'.

As you can see, I started doing a hobby on the cheap - and you can, too.

My husband is a model railroader.  He is a member of the TLR and the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club.  They both have banquets.  Wives are invited.  There are door prizes.  After the WMRC's banquet I found myself with a kit for a #889 N Grain Elevator Laser-Art Structure.

It was too small for my husband's layout.  My first thought was to return it for the next banquet.  But then they announced the theme for the next Spring's contest: a Laser-Art model.  There would be prizes.  Oh…

As we drove home I wondered if I could actually make the model.

A few months later I watched Suzanne, the WMRC's president, paint a laser-art kit.  Watching Suzanne reminded me of Art History where our teacher explained Pointillism.  Georges-Pierre Seurat, a Pointillism biggie, had spent over two years painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.  Suzanne barely touched the paint with her brush.  Then she wiped the paint off before she tapped the brush's tip on the model.  Suzanne explained that the thin wood warps when it is wet, but the walls should straighten as they dried, so that they could be glued together.

It was slow, painstaking work. 

Nobody could ever, ever accuse me of having that kind of patience.  I was having my doubts about making the elevator for the contest.      

I'm not patient, but I am cheap.  There's cheap and then there's stupid.  I know eye makeup shouldn't be used after six months.  But I couldn't just toss the germ infested containers.  I keep things, just in case.  A couple of days after watching Suzanne I was sorting through some makeup.  It hit me.  Eye shadow and blusher are powders in a variety of colors.

Since I had nothing to lose, I decided to use my old makeup to color the kit.

As I was new to the hobby, I thought it was important to read the instructions.
Yeah, well, that shows how clueless I was.
If you're about to make your first laser-art model, just glance at the instructions.
Trust me.  Especially if you're planning to use some old makeup.

The instruction writer had first made the grain elevator, then the shed and finally the office building.  Suzanne had worked on one building at a time, carefully dry painting each structure, like a jeweller polishing a diamond.  

Applying eye shadow with a cotton Q-tip to a model is not as exact.  The makeup smears over and some of the powder falls onto the table.  A few swipes with the Q-tip and the wall is covered.  We're not talking eye liner here.  It's easier to color all of the walls at the same time.  What's the sense of creating one mess, cleaning up, and then trying to remember what was used to create the same effect on a second building? 

I created a faded look for the walls with various shades of grey, white, blue and purple makeup.  On the outer beams, doors and trims I used the blusher, with a few touches of grey and white for a bit of interest.  The powders held to the wood and didn't rub off.  On the interiors and on the under side of the roof panels I used a #2 pencil to give the appearance of warped wood planks.  I separated the pieces and kept the leftover wood, just in case.

The instructions had said to attach all of the grain elevator walls together before inserting the assembled windows, and that the peel-and-stick frames would hold the windows without any glue.  Forget that.  It's easier to work while the wall is flat on the table.  The peel-and-stick frames don't stick well or hold anything.  I put a dab of white glue on the edges of the walls, installed the windows and then put the walls together.       

A few of the beams and a thin front wall had broken when I was separating and trimming them.  At first I panicked.  Then I realized I was making old buildings.  The broken bits would just add to the effect.

Because of all the glue, the thin fronts by the doors of the shed and the office building had warped. I re-enforced them with tooth picks.  That saved a bit of time cutting the scrap wood to fit.

The instructions were useless when it came to attaching the unloading shed.  The elevator is not flat, the foundation is recessed and the elevator doesn't extend to meet the front of the shed.  The leftover scraps of wood were perfect for making a frame on the elevator to provide a flat surface for attaching the shed.  The kit didn't have trim to cover where the structures joined.  So I made a beam, notched it to fit around the elevator's two outer beams, and angled the top to fit the shed's roof. 

Don't even bother reading the instructions for the roofing. They said the wooden roofs for the elevator and the office would easily bend and fit, and all you had to do was attach and color the shingles.  Right.  First I measured (allowing for overlapping) and marked guides on each roof for placing the shingles.  Then I gently scored the roof panels with an exacto knife before bending to attach them to the buildings.  I colored and cut the shingles to fit before overlapping and gluing them.  Then I used a bit of red where the shingles meet the beams, and also under the outer beams and the windows, to look like rust stains.

I used a marker to darken the white plastic tube supplied for the elevator's loading chute.  As the pre-cut hole was larger than needed, I taped the tube to the inside.  I had used the picture on the box as a model.  It had a light blue foundation, which just didn't look right for an old building.  So I darkened my foundation with brown shadow and used a #2 pencil to add details.  

The buildings were basically done.  By then I was getting more confident.  I decided to add a few more touches.  To create the effect of a water stain under the roof of the office building, I smeared a drop of white glue, then rubbed some dark grey eye shadow over that.  I also added a few patches on the roofs and colored the exposed edges with a black marker.  I also scratched the shingles, shaved their edges with an exacto knife, and flipped a few of their edges.  

I didn't have much confidence when I entered my grain elevator in The WMRC's Spring Show's laser-art contest.  But, I figured, it's done, why not enter?  I was awarded first place and received the Goodall Trophy. 

I also entered my grain elevator in the National Model Railroad Association Thousand Lakes Region's 2013 Regional 'Twin Rails to the Twin Cities' Convention's model contest.  There it was awarded third place, Structure On-line.

What can I say?
Use what you have and keep things, just in case!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Anna Sultana's Fried Swordfish in Caper Sauce, Maltese Style

I'm happy to see that I've posted something you like.
But even a good recipe can become boring.

So, here's another of Ma's recipes for serving fish with a sauce.
This recipe is for swordfish.
Swordfish is in another of Ma's top fish recipes - Grilled Swordfish.
Hope you've tried it, too.

Swordfish is like grouper.
A hard to find and large fish.
No problem - just get some mackerel or tuna steaks.

Or you can also use skinless, boneless chicken breast.
Which is always available, and is often on sale.

You can also serve the sauce in a gravy boat.
Some folks don't like capers.
Maybe they would like the mustard sauce?
It's easy to make both.

                        Fried Swordfish in Caper Sauce   

Serves 4 

Caper Sauce

In a medium pot over low heat heat
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, sliced
Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are browned.
1/2 kilo tomatoes, quartered
100 g tomato paste
Simmer for 15 minutes.
100 g capers
salt and pepper to taste

Fried Swordfish

Combine on a plate
1/2 Cup flour
salt and pepper

Cut into slices across the bone
1 kilo swordfish
Dip the slices into the seasoned flour.
Fry the slices in hot oil until golden brown.

Place swordfish in a serving platter.
Pour the caper sauce over the swordfish.

Serve with a salad and pan-fried potatoes.
Or not.
A favourite starch (rice, pasta, etc.) and a cooked vegetable are also good.
And would soak up more of the sauce - either caper or mustard.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Anna Sultana's Cerna Fl-imbjank - Poached Grouper, Maltese Style

Hope you enjoyed Ma's recipe for Grilled Grouper with Mustard Sauce.
But it is getting colder.
The weather… not the grouper.
Time for some recipes to cook indoors.

In the post for Grilled Grouper there was some information on the fish.
A quick refresher…
Groupers are hefty, like a mackerel or tuna.
Their steaks would be large.

This would not work with sole.
But the sole would work in Ma's recipe for Mixed Fish Fry.
It's all good.
Like they say:
Even a stopped watch is right twice a day.

The fish should be simmered gently so that it will remain in one piece and not dry out.
The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the steaks.

                        Ċerna Fl-imbjank

Serves 4 - 6

Place in a dutch oven
4 - 6 grouper steaks
Generously brush with 
4 Tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon parsley
2 teaspoons mint
1/2 Cup water 

Simmer over a medium flame about 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve with salad and fried potatoes.
Or a favourite starch (rice, pasta, etc.) and a cooked vegetable.
It's all good.