Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Axing

While we were at the book sale, Shannon's boyfriend, Natasha and Mark were gathering firewood so we could have a Saturday night bonfire.  I'm pretty sure Natasha was no help whatsoever, but Boyfriend surely had fun.  He found part of a tree down in our woods, and hauled it to be axed.

And then he gave Mark axing lessons.

Mark even began to look competent.

I believe they left sufficient wood to hold a Thanksgiving bonfire, too.  Hopefully it will be neither drizzling nor snowing then.

And in the background, you can see that we don't have much color showing.  Everything is still pretty green.  It got much colder Saturday, so that will be changing.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Sale Weekend!

The book sale was this weekend!  Jeffrey and his girlfriend had come up Friday night; she was very excited about going to buy books.

 She's a sweet girl.  She was very happy when I told her I was paying for her books.

Shannon, her boyfriend and Natasha had also come up.  Shannon went to the book sale.  Boyfriend and Natasha did not.  They played in the yard.

Natasha was very upset when Shannon got into my car without me, and was hopping up and down in glee when we returned.  It was very funny.

These are the books I bought for Jeff, his girlfriend, Cass, Kellie, the relative in Denver, and even 5 for myself.  I'm sure that you all remember that I have "too many" books, so I'm not buying any more.  And by "any more", I'm sure I mean "many more."

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thorsday Book Review

This was another library used book sale find.  I enjoyed the movie, and so I had to have the book.

by Robert James Waller
copyright 1992
171 pages

The opening of this book sets it up as if it's a real story; the children of a woman recently deceased presents letters and other personal items to a writer, and asks him to write their mother's story, and find the man in the story.

Set during a hot week in August, 1965, Robert Kincaid is a National Geographic photographer assigned to photograph the seven covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa.  During the road trip from his home in Washington, he finds several other sites he'd like to photograph at some point.  Upon his arrival in Iowa, he seeks directions to the bridges, but one is elusive - until he sees a farm wife outside her house, and pulls into the driveway to ask directions.

Francesca Johnson is the Iowa farm wife.  She was a war bride from Italy who took the best of the options remaining for her after World War II.  Her husband and children were showing steer at the state fair during the week, leaving her relatively free.  The photographer who pulls into her driveway is unlike anyone she knows - a "hippie", as he's called by the townsfolk.  She takes him to find the last bridge, just down the road, and invites him to dinner.  The relationship blossoms from there.

You know from the beginning of the book where this is going, and that makes it all the more poignant.  There are chapters at the end which show what happened after that week, and how bittersweet life can be.  "The old dream were good dreams; they didn't work out, but I'm glad I had them."

This book haunted me for a couple of days.  It made me more mindful of just how fortunate my life has been, and how fragile and fleeting happiness can be.  The movie was good, and the book far better.  5/5

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Trees

Well, it's been a pretty warm October, and surprisingly few of our trees have turned colors.  I was helping Mark identify trees for a leaf-gathering project he had to do for Biology, and took some pictures of our trees while he was at it.  Hey, someone had to point out 10 species of tree, and that boy is pretty oblivious!

Anyway, enjoy many species of tree, located right here in my little corner of the world.

Apple tree:

 White Mulberry:
 White Ash and Green Ash:
 Weeping Cherry (foreground), maple peeking above it:
 Flowering Plum:
 Maples and whatnot:
 Black Walnut, way up there:
That's it!  Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Columbus Day!

Or, as Mark's History teacher so eloquently said, "Let's celebrate Columbus REdiscovering America!"  Because, of course, the Vikings had arrived about 500 years earlier.

Anyway, here's a new way to eat soup:

Mark announced that soup would be better if you had your veggies and meat on a plate, and the broth separately.  So I let him try it.  He does not recommend it; said the broth tasted like gravy.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Thorsday Book Review on Saturday!

I know this is way out of character for me.  Wednesday our water heater sprung a leak (and didn't get replaced until Friday), and Thursday I had to take Mark for a flu shot (we parents got ours at the pharmacy last week).  So here I am, finally getting to my Thorsday Book Review.

Our oldest son, the finance professor, has had a long running dispute with his parents as to whether globalization and moving all of our manufacturing overseas is a good thing.  He says it's better for everyone to get cheaper stuff, and we say that those people who worked in manufacturing can't buy the cheaper stuff without those good jobs.  Service jobs can never pay as much, and not everyone is college material.  Sorry that's not politically correct, but it's the truth.  It's also the truth that not everyone can get an education in the "STEM" fields - science, technology, engineering, math.  Some people's brains just aren't wired that way.  Anyway, this book was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal a couple of months back, I bought it, my dearly beloved read it and sent it on to our son, so I had to buy a second copy for myself.  And now I can review it for you.

by Beth Macy
copyright 2014

This book takes a look at globalization from the point of view of the affected: the factory owners and workers.

Beth Macy states that this book started as the story of how the recession affected ordinary people and displaced workers; when she started it, of the articles published about the recession, 98% told the story from the point of view of big business and the Obama administration, and only 2% about the people affected. This book certainly addresses that imbalance. The opening paragraph in chapter 1:

"Once in a reporter's career, if one is very lucky, a person like John D. Bassett III comes along. JBIII is inspirational. He's brash. He's a sawdust-covered, good old boy from rural Virginia, a larger-than-life rule breaker who for more than a decade has stood almost single-handedly against the outflow of furniture jobs from America.
"'He's an as****e!' more than one of his competitors barked...."

Early on, Beth Macy quotes Thomas Friedman from his book The World is Flat: "Globalization saved American consumers roughly $600 billion, extended more capital to businesses to invest in new innovations and helped the Federal Reserve hold interest rates down, which in turn gave American a chance to buy or refinance homes." This is my son's argument also; however, my point has been that those former furniture workers in Bassett, Virginia can't buy those terrific cheap goods without the furniture jobs to pay for said goods.

"To most economists, factory work was a throwback. It was still okay to work in health care, retail, recreation, insurance, hotels and haircuts. But it wasn't cool anymore to actually make stuff." As a result, 5 million factory jobs have been eliminated since 2000. There are an awful lot of people out there who don't want to go on to college for whatever their reasons: financial, inability or simple lack of interest - maybe they like making or fixing things. But increasingly, there's no place for them to make a good middle class living. This book looks at some of those people.

But it does take a while to get to that point. Beth Macy starts out looking at the history of the Bassett family, from their settlement in Henry County in 1791, through the Civil War, when the extended family had over 21,000 acres of land; then through the period of trying to figure out how to make a living, initially by sawing lumber for the railroads, then through a sawmill, and finally to making furniture. It details the history of the founding of and expansion of the Bassett Furniture Company, and the family's assistance to other relatives in starting furniture companies of their own in southern Virginia. The book covers the feud between John Bassett ("JBIII") and his brother-in-law, ultimately leading to JBIII's founding of the Vaughn Bassett furniture company, and his strike against the Chinese furniture companies copying his designs and dumping them inexpensively - below cost to manufacture - in America.

I don't know that this book alone would change the minds of people who believe that we ought not to manufacture things here. And I certainly don't think that we could continue to employ the vast numbers of people in manufacturing that once held such jobs - automation will always preclude that. I also question whether Western companies should move their production to wherever the labor costs are cheapest, at the expense of their own countrymen's financial well being. But this book does give a rarely-expressed look into the subject, and is well worth the read.  5/5

(There was one more thing that made me want to read this book.  Back in 1986, we made an offer on one of the Bassett family houses in Bassett, Virginia, which is mentioned in this book.  It was initially accepted, and the acceptance was rescinded, because our offer was 1/3 of what the Bassett heirs had claimed the house was worth when  they donated it to a college in Virginia.  Reading what has happened to Bassett, I'm not sorry we don't live there.)

AND, the final item: My giveaway of The Yellow Room.  I had two people who wanted it: Audrey and Pam in Oregon.  Audrey, you can have it; just leave me your address (which I will delete as soon as I read it) so I can contact you.  And Pam, I have another book I think you will enjoy, and I'll send that to you, if you give me your address!

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Hydrangea

My two hydrangea have started to turn pink.

I don't know why, since we haven't fed any of the trees around them recently, but I'm a fan!

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tilapia in Parchment

When we took Ryan to college, we went out for an early dinner after setting up his dorm room.  While proceeding down a major road, Ryan spotted a Red Lobster and exclaimed that he'd always wanted to try one, so in we turned.  He enjoyed visiting with the tank of lobsters (which are high in cholesterol), but we all chose something else for our meals.  I had a tilapia dish which was very nice, and proceeded to attempt to replicate it at home.  Here's my approximation:


Carrots, sliced and simmered for a few minutes
artichoke hearts, quartered
scallions, chopped
grape tomatoes, cut in half
lemon juice
lemon pepper
lemon slices
butter or margarine

Simmer the carrots until they are about half cooked, or else they'll still be raw when everything else is done.  Cut a piece of parchment or foil about 12"x18" for each serving, and layer carrots, mushrooms (if desired) and tilapia.  Sprinkle the tilapia with lemon pepper and chopped scallions.  Top with grape tomatoes and artichoke hearts, drizzle a little lemon juice over the top, add 2 or 3 lemon slices, and add several pats of butter or margarine.  Seal the packets up, and bake at 375F until done, 20 to 30 minutes depending upon the amount of food in each packet.  Serve on a bed of rice (white or wild grain mix).

I enjoyed this because I could leave out whatever each of us doesn't like, and size each packet to the person for whom it was being prepared.  The downside is that it takes a little while to layer and seal each one, but that's the price you pay for not having to cook all the side dishes, right?  Everyone enjoyed it, so much so that I've cooked it twice in the past month.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Thorsday Book Review: The Yellow Room

Mary Roberts Rinehart would have been a remarkable woman, indeed, a remarkable man, at any time.  She was the wife of a wealthy doctor who lost most of his net worth in the stock market crash of 1903.  She began writing, publishing 45 short stories in the next few years, and her first novel in 1908, which earned her the amount her husband had lost, about $100,000, in the next year.  She was considered the "American Agatha Christie", and wrote many books and plays.  One of the interesting things about her books is that they are all written at the time in which they are set, providing us with interesting glimpses of life in a time long gone.

(It's the top book; I bought it back in May, at a used book sale.)

by Mary Roberts Rinehart
copyright 1945

Carol Spencer, polished young lady from New York, is aboard a train for Newport, Rhode Island, with her mother.  They will be visiting with Carol's sister and her family for a few days, after which Carol will leave to open the family's summer house in Maine a few weeks before everyone else joins her.  Carol had not expected to return to Maine again, since her fiance had been killed in the war, but her mother urged her to carry on.  So off to Maine Carol went with her maid in tow.  The housekeeper and groundskeeper seemed to be otherwise occupied, and the house wasn't ready for her.  After she got into the house, Carol discovered that the yellow bedroom was locked; inside it was the body of a young woman.  Who was she, and why was she in Carol's house?  The townsfolk were behaving strangely; why?  And her late fiance's father was also acting peculiarly; again, why?  Set in the midst of World War II, this was a fine mystery.  5/5

As a side note, I wonder if we don't remember Mrs. Rinehart's name the way we remember Agatha Christie because she didn't have recurring detectives such as Poirot or Miss Marple.  Each of her stories has its own distinct cast of characters and settings, making it harder for her to remain in the public eye for nearly 100 years, as Agatha Christie has.  Interesting.

Now, in case anyone is interested, I have two copies of the book.  I'll send one to someone!  Tell me why you want it, and I'll choose a name next Thorsday!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Honey Bunches

I found this recipe in the Winthrop College cookbook my (then future) daughter in law gave me a couple of years back.  It seemed like an easy and good recipe, and given that Louise just finished posting that September is National Honey Month (I think she's told us that before, but I always forget; I count on her to keep track of food holidays), this seemed like a great way to celebrate.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2/3 cup honey
1-1/2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

In a pan, melt the butter.  Stir in the honey (spray your measuring cup to avoid having all the honey stick to it), bring to a boil, and simmer for one minute.  Meanwhile, stir together all of the dry ingredients.  Pour the butter/honey mixture over it, stir together until well combined, and drop by the rounded spoonful into a well greased mini muffin pan.  Bake at 350F for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before attempting to remove from the pan (otherwise, they will break - trust me on this).  Store tightly wrapped to keep them soft.  Makes about 36.

I used my smallest cookie scoop to fill the muffin pans.  I also topped with some melted chocolate chips I happened to have (from another project).  Next time, I'd line the muffin pan with mini muffin papers, and spray those, to make it easier to remove them from the pans, and so I don't have to worry about eating the ones that break and don't look pretty.

My dearly beloved really liked these, and even Mark managed to compliment me, after a fashion: "These aren't half bad."  Trust me, that's high praise from that kid.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thorsday Book Review: Tender Treachery

I know it's Friday, but Thursday happened too fast for me.

This is the new book by H. Y. Hanna, second in her "First Love" series.

by H. Y. Hanna

This is the follow-up book to Tender Deceit, which I reviewed a couple of months back, written by H. Y. Hanna (also author of the Honey the Great Dane mysteries).  It's pure chick-lit, a light romantic mystery.  Leah has returned to England from Singapore, having tended to her father's funeral, reconnected with her first love, Toran James.  After about 2 months back at her job and life, but still distracted by the thought of Toran, Leah, when offered a promotion at her job, instead quit, packed up and returned to Singapore.  After all, she does have her father's villa, now her own; her childhood best friend Julie is still there, and Toran has been in frequent contact with her, including sending her 2 dozen red roses the day she quit her job.  While it's better to read the first book first, there's enough of a recap in the first couple of chapters to catch you up on what happened in that book.  In the first few days Leah's back in Singapore, she has a quarrel with Julie when she learns the truth about something Julia did (or did not do) 12 years earlier, when Leah's father sent her back to England to finish her schooling.  Then she goes to Toran's apartment, only to find Toran's ex-fiancee, Angela, living there.  She and Angela talk, and Angela confides that she's going to a retreat which she had been investigating for a newspaper article.  The next day, when Leah and Toran are returning to his apartment, Angela's parents are waiting in the hallway for him, distraught that Angela has disappeared.  Leah feels guilty for encouraging Angela to go, gets accepted to this retreat (which, of course, is a cult with nefarious undertones), with the intention of bringing Angela back.  It's a very light mystery, and it's not difficult to see where it's going, but the characters are engaging, and there's enough suspense to keep the reader interested.  And, at the end, there's a hook which will lead into the next book in the series.  Hsin-Yi has proven herself to be an imaginative author, and versatile, moving from her children's books into adult books seamlessly.  If you're looking for light and easy reading, this is a good series.  Only available in Kindle format.  5/5

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wonder Bars

About 5 years ago, before we had even met her, my oldest son's then-girlfriend, now wife, bought a cookbook published by her college, and told him to give it to me.  I thought that was really nice, and I've used it a couple of times.  Well, in August, after Ryan took up complaining about how boring it was to have cake all the time (and I had to discard the last quarter of a cake, because it went stale when no one ate it!), I returned to Ashleigh's cookbook for a few desserts.  This was one that everyone particularly enjoyed.


1 stick butter or margarine, melted
1 box yellow or vanilla cake mix
1 egg at room temperature (drop it in a cup of very warm water for 5 minutes)
2 eggs at room templerature
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese (regular or low fat)
3 cups confectioners sugar
3/4 cup flaked coconut
3/4 cup chopped nuts(I used walnuts)

Generously grease or spray a 15"x10" jelly roll pan.  Stir together the yellow cake mix, butter and 1 egg, and press into the pan (the mixture will be fairly dry).  Beat the eggs, vanilla and cream cheese for a minute, then add the confectioner's sugar, and beat until very smooth.  Stir in the coconut and nuts, and pour over the crust.  Bake at 350F for 45 to 50 minutes until lightly browned.

These are very rich.  They are very delicious.  Even my nut-hater and coconut-haters enjoyed them immensely.  I suspect that Ryan would like me to put some in a care package to college one of these days!  (Yes, I send him baked goods, because I can.  And because on Tuesday he commented that he always thought I was a good cook, but he especially appreciates my food now.)

Happy Wednesday, everyone!