Who Is Anastasia?

My photo
New Castle, Indiana Zone 5, United States
When I was 55, I decided to embrace the things I love and hold precious and dear, regardless of anyone else's thoughts and opinion. I am a visual folk artist who loves flowers - my own flowers, grown and/or painted by me. I love good, hearty, exotic foods, and I love to prepare them myself. I love the secret garden situated in my backyard, regardless of how overgrown and wild it gets. No longer able to afford a vacation, this will have to be it for the time being. In the winter months, I still enjoy it. Anyway, here I am sharing my art, favorite recipes, cocktails, gardening tips, and just my usual vents and bantering. After all, I'm old enough to say whatever the heck I want to now ...


My Book Available on AMAZON

Stacey Torres ART Prints

Stacey Torres ART Prints
A very limited selection of reproductions from my paintings can be found here

June 28, 2009

The garden this morning ...

Well, I guess these photos are a true indication that I need to break down, somehow, and get/use a real camera, and stop using my cell phone to take pics. But, this is what's going on in my garden this morning. Lots of container plants this year; tomatoes, peppers, petunias, nicotiana, etc.

Church Lady Iced Tea Punch

I don't know what made me think of this ... perhaps, because it's a hot, summer Sunday morning. Thinking of church picnics; teas and socials in the steamy church basement with paper fans from the funeral homes ...
But, this is good punch - for any event on a hot summer's day.

Church Lady Ice Tea Punch Recipe
They served this amazing punch all of the time at our last church - it's a grown up punch, no sherbet or floaty things in this one! by HeidiRenee
3 liters ginger ale
1 cup iced tea mix powder
Pour dry cup of Iced Tea Mix into bottom of punch bowl.
Add 3 liters of Ginger Ale.
Add bag of ice.
Enjoy - it's really amazing and refreshing!

June 24, 2009

On Date Pudding, and Remembering a Friend

In Loving Memory of Constance Sue Williams Griffin
May 6, 1954 - June 19, 2009

Today, we buried our friend, Connie Sue. None of us were prepared for this, none of us expected it, none of us believe it. Yet, we all know, this is what happens to all of us - the one thing that binds us all eternally - is death.
Funerals are odd occurrences. These are times when we run into old friends, forgotten pasts, and for a few moments during the midst of our sadness and grief, after the funeral, after the burial, we gather and break bread ... we enjoy time together - a few laughs to ease our pain - and, we break some more bread together.
Today, it was DATE PUDDING! One of our friends made it. A crazy rich taste, we were all giddy with side splitting laughter, indulging in the rich, rich, decadence of the pudding. Before we parted, Sharon asked, "Do you have this recipe?" No one really did, but I promised I would find one before day's end. And, I did - courtesy of Stop The Ride, a cool blog I stumbled across. This is Stephanie's Grandmother's marvelous recipe. Enjoy! Be kind to one another, remember and cherish your friends, and TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! You're (really) all you've got ... http://www.stoptheride.net/2007/10/amish-date-pudding.html

Grandma Erma's Upside Down Date Pudding
To 1 C chopped dates add 1 C boiling water and set aside.
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp salt
2 TB butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1 C chopped nuts
1/2 C white sugar
Blend sugars, egg and butter. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in nuts and dates. Pour into 11x7 baking dish.

Top with this sauce:
1-1/2 C brown sugar
1 TB butter
1-1/2 C boiling water
Pour over top of flour mixture. Bake at 375 F for 40 minutes. When cool cut into squares. In a large bowl, layer cake with whipped cream (homemade is best) and bananas. Use a clear bowl to do your layering, if you can. It makes it pretty.

Personal Note: I'd top the whole thing with REAL whipped cream ...

June 22, 2009

Hip, Hip, Rhubarb!

My Aunt Jeanne made a pie; a rhubarb pie. You’re probably wondering what’s the big deal? Well, as long as I’ve known Aunt Jeanne, she has been on a quest for the perfect pie crust. Her mother-in-law made a magnificent crust that has never been matched – perhaps, until now. Over the years, we’ve tasted and sampled pies that Aunt Jeanne baked, but she always said, “If only I could get that crust just like Harriett’s …” We all thought her pies were great, but Jeanne was not to be dissuaded. My fondest memory of Aunt Jeanne and pies was the precision in which she cut them. One Christmas I watched in amazement as she cut a pecan pie into 15 equal pieces to serve everyone. What began as a joke became family legend.
Back to the rhubarb pie. We were celebrating my uncle’s birthday when Aunt Jeanne announced that we should save room for desert because she had made birthday pie. By the gleam in her eyes, I knew there was something special about this pie. I’m not a rhubarb fan; but I decided to see what the hullabaloo was all about. We all waited anxiously in the backyard while we knew she was inside cutting her pie into 9 perfect slices. But, first, she brought it out to present to us, and with pride, she announced she had reached her pie-making summit, and had her perfect crust! Served with vanilla ice cream, there was silence in the garden as the pie was sampled, and Jeanne waited for the results. Suddenly, there was a burst of jubilee as my uncle led the cheer, “Hip, Hip Hooray, Hip, Hip, Hooray, Hip, Hip, Rhubarb!”
I did not eat a piece of pie that night, and now I’m sorry. Afterwards, I left to ponder what I don’t like about rhubarb. Really, there’s no reason. I used to love it. What had rhubarb ever done to me? Driving down the road, I crossed a railroad track, and a big clump of it sat there staring at me as if I were a criminal. I began to think about rhubarb, and what its purpose was here on earth, besides one great pie I missed out on.
A perennial vegetable from the buckwheat family, I learned rhubarb is native to China and Tibet, and is a high source of Vitamin C. There are dozens of varieties, and it is eaten raw by people in Iraq and Turkey. Wild, European Rhubarb is used for wrapping cheese and pigs love its rhizomes. Himalayan Rhubarb can grow to 7’ tall and has beautiful blossoms.
Rhubarb can be made into a laxative tea, homemade paper, wine, hair coloring, and countless baked goods. It can remove burns on pots and pans. I found the following recipe, and since rhubarb can be frozen, it would make a wonderful dish any time of the year. The salsa can be used to accompany a variety of dishes.

Glazed Roast Lamb with Rhubarb Salsa
1 Leg of lamb (4-6 lbs) Boned and rolled 3 Tbsp Honey 1 tsp Garlic salt 1/4 tsp Ground pepper 2 tsp Red wine vinegar
Rhubarb Salsa
1 C Chopped onions 2/3 C Dark or golden raisins 1/2 C Honey 2 Tbsp Red wine vinegar 4 tsp Chopped Jalapeno pepper 2 Cloves garlic, minced 1/2 tsp Ground cardamom 6 C Fresh or frozen sliced Rhubarb (1-1/2 lbs)

LAMB: Combine the 3 tablespoons honey, garlic salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Place meat on rack in roasting pan; brush with glaze mixture. Roast in 325 degree oven for two to four hours or until desired doneness (150 degrees for medium rare or 160 degrees for medium), brushing occasionally with glaze mixture.

Salsa: In a large saucepan, combine the onions, raisins, honey, vinegar, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and cardamom. Stir in rhubarb. Bring to boiling; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 min., stirring as little as possible. Uncover and simmer for 5 min. to reduce the liquid a bit. Stir only if necessary to prevent scorching. Set aside. Serve at room temperature as accompaniment to sliced roast lamb. The recipe is from: http://food.sulekha.com

Next time, I won’t decline a slice of that pie.

June 17, 2009

Dinner Tonight

For dinner tonight, I'm doing a simple macaroni salad. Cook your pasta in salted water, and drain/rinse. Dice celery, onions, stoplight peppers, and blend with pasta. Toss in a pound of large cooked shrimps (remove their clothes, please ...) Then, to the mayonnaise - mayonnaise, I said, NOT Miracle Whip - add Pesto or Thai Green or Red Chili Paste ... Blend, chill and enjoy.

The Parrot Flower

My cousin, Stormy sent me an amazing email today. It contained the above pictures, and the very simple message:

Who, But God, Could Create This?

This is a flower from Thailand . It is also a protected species and not allowed to be exported. This will be the only way we will be able to view this flower.

June 13, 2009

White Chocolate & Berry Muffins

So, I'm broke as heck now ... still unemployed ... still looking. I've decided to bake up batches of homemade muffins and take them to the weekly farmers market next week. I think folks would like a breakfast muffin with their coffee while browsing early summer Saturday mornings.

Let me know what you think of this recipe I found today for White Chocolate & Berry Muffins:
You will need:
2 cups self-raising flour
2/3 cup caster sugar
¾ cup milk
4 Tablespoons (or 60g) butter, melted
1 egg, beaten lightly
3/4 C white chocolate chips
1/2 C fresh raspberries (blueberries, blackberries, etc.)
muffin liners
White Chocolate Glaze*

Preheat oven to 400F. Line muffin pan (1/3 cup capacity) w/liners.
Sift flour and sugar into bowl. Quickly stir in milk, butter and egg until
almost combined. Gently fold in the white chocolate and raspberries or
until just combined.
Spoon mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until
cooked when tested with skewer.
Serve muffins warm or cooled. Drizzle with white chocolate glaze.
Makes about 12

White Chocolate Glaze:
4 ounces chopped white chocolate
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Microwave chopped white chocolate and whipping cream at HIGH in a 2-cup glass measuring cup 30 seconds to 1 minute or until melted, stirring twice. Whisk in butter until blended, and spoon immediately over muffins.
(Recipe from Southern Living, 2001)

June 8, 2009

Seeking Sanctuary in the Garage

I have two neighbors who take full advantage of their garages during warm weather months - perhaps all year, for all I know. But, I have been fascinated for their similar uses for these spaces traditionally used to store vehicles, lawn/household equipment, tools, workshops, etc.

One is a lady living across the street from us. For the past 10 years, I've noticed that from the first breeze of springtime, she throws up her garage door, and takes sanctuary on a big old, ratty sofa, covered with quilts, throws, and tons of pillows. Next to this is a small table with tea, snacks and a mile-high stack of books, which she reads until autumn frost. To the rear of the garage are the usual things hanging on hooks, rakes, tools, furniture, stored winter clothing, and her washer and dryer, sometimes scenting the air with fruity fabric softeners. Like a perennial, she faithfully camps out on this sofa during the day and into the evening, lounging, dozing, but mostly reading her summer books, as if she were at a luxury five-star spa for the summer. I've always admired this lady for her discipline to make herself tune out in "her space."

A gentleman lives down the street, and has a true 'man cave.' I've watched the progression of his private space for about three years, fascinated at how he makes this work for himself. I say "himself" because there's no room in there for anyone else. He has my kind of garage; filled to the brim with "stuff" -- man stuff, family stuff, woman stuff, more man stuff ... I have no idea what the heck is in there, but I have noticed over the past few years that his space is shrinking. What he does is sit in there, among all of his 'things,' and watches television on summer evenings. From the street, I watched with further admiration, and he would relax, with his feet up on boxes, enjoying his favorite shows into the night. I understand, he had not been well, and this was his form of de-stressing. Sometimes, he enjoys a sandwich while he watches his TV. One evening last week, as I walked my dog through the neighborhood, I spotted him with his lawn chair, forced out in the driveway (because of his "stuff") - watching his shows from a distance.

I envy both of these people for taking this forlorn, neglected spaces, and making them their own. We have a family friend that has a large 2.5 car detached garage that they have used for entertaining for years. They have huge cook-outs, steak fries and outdoor parties, and traditionally have used their garage (loaded with two or more refrigerators) for setting up long buffet tables; extra seating and card playing. Heated in the winter, cooled in the summer, it's become a familiar neighborhood icon.

Growing up, my grandfather used to like to sit in the garage, where he would smoke his pipe, and looking down our long driveway, have a keen eye of the street without being seen. That was his sanctuary, and often mine. Even now, 50 years later, I have very vivid dreams of that garage, that was huge, with rafters and lofts, and scary cats that sneaked in a broken window to the back. Over the front was a magnificent awning covered with Concord Grapes in late summer. We had this wonderful, very heavy leather chaise lounge that everyone fought over because it was so comfortable. And, when it rained, we pushed it back into the garage and napped for hours, feeling safe, peaceful and at rest ...

I have a garage now. But, like my neighbor's, I can't get into it; it's so full ... how does this happen? Ah, my project for next summer ...

June 3, 2009

OliveClean Shampoo for Dry, Damaged and Brittle Hair

OliveClean Shampoo for Dry, Damaged and Brittle Hair

Shared via AddThis

Olive Oil Uses

Not Just for Cooking:

Olive Oil Skin Care... Straight From the Bottle! You can concoct simple skin care recipes right in your kitchen. Try these mini beauty treatments...

Bath: For a moisturizing, aromatic soak, add about ¼ cup olive oil and several drops of essential oil to your bathwater. I like lavender oil for relaxation just before bedtime. (As with any bath oil, be careful as the tub may become slippery.)

Skin: Gently massage a small amount of olive oil anywhere your skin is dry: face, elbows, feet, or legs.

Hands: Whip up a quick sugar scrub for rough, dry hands. Combine two tablespoons of oil with two tablespoons of sugar. Rub on hands until sugar begins to dissolve. Rinse with warm water. Voila! Silky-smooth hands.

Feet: Apply a liberal amount of oil to feet at bedtime. Cover with cotton socks. Not sexy... but oh-so-soft feet in the morning! The magic works for hands, too. Cover with white cotton gloves (hmm, even less sexy).

Face: Create a moisturizing facial mask with olive oil, honey, and an egg yolk. Beat until well blended and apply to face... then relax! Leave on for 15 minutes; rinse with warm water.

Nails: Warm a small dish of olive oil (not too hot) with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Soak nails for 5- 10 minutes. This softens cuticles while it strengthens nails.

Hair: For a simple oil treatment, warm several tablespoons of olive oil (again, not hot). Rub into scalp and hair. Cover with a shower cap or small plastic bag. Leave on for 20-30 minutes. For extra conditioning, mix an egg yolk with the olive oil... but do not warm. This is great for dry hair and split ends. It may even heal dandruff. Shampoo twice after this treatment or you'll smell like raw egg!

Dogs: Olive oil is an excellent skin/hair treatment for our pets. It is particularly soothing and comforting for dogs with itchy skin conditions, and it makes their coat luxurious! Also, add a teaspoon to their supper dishes (1/2 teaspoon for small dogs), and they will reap the same benefits as we do. I don't know how cats react to olive oil, but to me - it's the fruit of the earth.
Lips: Alleviate chapped lips with straight olive oil. Dab on lips... especially helpful at bedtime. Okay, your body is covered with olive oil! That’s as natural as you can get. If you’d prefer to purchase ready made olive oil skin products, you’re in luck. Manufacturers have discovered the power of this traditional beauty treasure. There are plenty of olive oil skin care products on the market... from olive oil soap to olive oil skin cream to olive oil hair care. The benefits of this anti-oxidant rich oil are no longer just an ancient beauty secret!

Courtesy of Sharonda Flynn, Hairlista

Cuban Style Grilled Corn on the Cob

You can thank Chef Flay for this one.
8 ears corn
4 limes, fresh quartered
garlic butter, recipe follows
1/2 cup Cotija cheese (sort of a Mexican Parmesan), grated
2 tablespoons chives, chopped for garnish
Garlic Butter 1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
8 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 habanero pepper, seeded
1/4 bunch fresh chives salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat grill to medium. Peel back the husks of the corn without removing them. Remove the silks and recover the corn with the husk. Soak in large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. Remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place the corn on the grill, close the cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes. Unwrap corn and brush with the garlic butter. Sprinkle with the cotija cheese and squeeze with lime. Sprinkle with chopped chives, to garnish.
For Garlic Butter: Combine butter, garlic, habanero, and chives in a food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper; Set aside until ready to use.

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot
A simple garden meal in the shade. No, it's not my backyard, but it looks identical to the one I grew up with at our home in Queens. Looking for an original pic of it to post soon!

Old Fashioned Tips