Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Trees on a Hill

This is one of the big blue spruce trees in the middle of my lawn.


No, I wasn't drunk or stupid when I took the picture.  It's on a hill, so the ground runs that way.

This is one of about a dozen maple trees we had dug up from the woods at the bottom of our yard and transplanted as 1" to 2" diameter saplings (bare root) in very early 1990.  I'm always amused at how the trunks have twisted so the trees are growing straight toward the sky, instead of perpendicular to the ground.

My kids laugh at how I have stories about so many of our trees.  I tell them that's what happens when you share your home and life with a tree fanatic, and stay in one place for a quarter of a century.

How about you, do you think of some of your trees fondly?

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, July 21, 2014

(Almost) Health Food Pizza

Late last week, my dearly beloved was bemoaning the fact that there was "nothing good" to eat in the house and he can't ever have good food again.  (To be fair, he and his sons always wail about the fact that there is "no food in the house" and yet can't tell me what would constitute food, other than perhaps pounds upon pounds of cooked meat sitting in the fridge, awaiting their consumption).

So I decided to show him that (a) he can have good food, and (b) upon half an hour's notice, or thereabouts, I can produce something from "nothing".

ALMOST HEALTH FOOD PIZZA

1-1/2 cups warm water
2-1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups regular flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tbsp yeast
olive oil for brushing
sauce
oregano
shredded mozzarella

Pour the water in your bread machine bucket or mixing bowl; sprinkle with the yeast, then add flour, salt and olive oil.  Mix according to my directions over there --------> (or in any way that makes you happy).  After the dough has been mixed and kneaded for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and shiny, remove from the bowl, split into 2 and roll out onto 11"x17" baking trays.  Brush the tops of the crust with olive oil, spread sauce over the crusts (I used leftover spaghetti sauce from the previous night, because I have never bothered to remember that cooking pasta for 5 requires considerably less sauce than pasta for 11), sprinkle with oregano, and top with shredded mozzarella (I used about 8 ounces per pizza).  Put into a cold oven, set for 425F, and walk away for 20 to 25 minutes.  It will rise, it will cook, it will smell drool-worthy, and everyone will be happy.


Note: you can add cooked meat, onions or whatever before sprinkling on the cheese.  I dislike onions, can't eat peppers and despise mushrooms, so those are out of the question.  I also didn't add ground beef in an effort to control the cholesterol content.  Feel free to splurge, if you'd like.  But it was great "as is".

After making a smaller batch for lunch one day, I made the double batch for dinner when the newlyweds were passing through.  Everyone loved it.

So there you are, in about the time it takes to phone in an order and go fetch it, you can have fresh, piping hot, Almost Health Food Pizza!  Glad to help you out.

Hope you're all having a great Monday.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Double Thorsday Book Review: Duds

I read two books recently that were duds, and thought I'd get them out of my pea sized brain by warning everyone about them.

THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I found this in my attic a couple of weeks ago, when I went upstairs to clean out the central air conditioning filter and check the drainage line for leaks. (No leaks, filter was OK, I have no idea why the ceiling below it was wet.  Not that it matters.)  I was pretty excited, because, well, it's good ol' F. Scott himself.  Someone must have paid a quarter or so for this at a used book sale, because it's a paperback, printed before the US had zip codes.

This is the story of Amory Blaine, a child of privilege, whose mother rarely resides with his father; his childhood in Switzerland and Minnesota, private high school and Princeton University.  It's a self-absorbed, frankly boring story.  I've since read that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote this book and had it published at the age of 23 to impress Zelda.  I'm glad that worked out for him, because it didn't impress me.  2/5

THE DOGS OF BABEL
by Carolyn Parkhurst

I bought this at a used book sale because of the dog on the cover, with the intention of sending it to the relative in Denver.  It's a large print edition (she has vision issues), so I thought she would enjoy it.  But I decided to read it first, and I'm glad I did.

Paul Iverson, a professor of linguistics, came home from work one day to find emergency crews in his yard. His wife, Lexi, had fallen from the top of an apple tree in their yard, and only their dog, Lorelei, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, was there.  Paul decides that he should take a sabbatical and teach the dog to speak, so she can tell him what happened to Lexi: was it an accident or suicide?

The book bothered me.  I understand being distraught over the loss of a spouse. However (and don't lynch me for this if you disagree), I don't think dogs can relate a third person's experience and feelings.  Not that dogs don't remember people - they do - just that they can't understand what's going on in someone else's head, and identify what they did.  Paul starts trying to make Lorelei talk, learn sounds, for things like water, with the idea that he can get her to narrate Lexi's demise to him.  I found that creepy.

And then he began corresponding with someone who had been arrested for performing gruesome surgeries on dogs to render them capable of speech.  Ick.  Double ick.  Ultimately, Paul figured out on his own what had happened, but by that time, I was just scanning the book.  It's not going to Denver, because I don't want to upset its intended recipient; I'll donate it to Goodwill instead.  Maybe someone else will like it.  2/5

This Thorsday Book Review is brought to you by Winston, surveying the world from the comfort of what he would surely describe as his window.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Daffodil Cake

Earlier this week, Louise posted a chiffon cake she'd made, and it inspired me.  So off to Fannie Farmer I went to peruse chiffon cakes, and found a recipe for Daffodil Cake, so called for its appearance, with an orange frosting!

DAFFODIL CAKE

9 egg whites
1-1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour, sifted
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp orange rind
1 tsp orange extract.

Beat the egg yolks until thick; add the 1/4 cup sugar and beat until very light colored.  Add the orange extract and orange rind and set aside. (I added 3 drops of yellow food coloring because it didn't look yellow enough, and I didn't want my menfolk to complain about a lack of color).

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla until fluffy.  Add the 1 cup sugar a bit at a time and beat until stiff.  Sift together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder, and stir into the egg whites.  (OK, so I gently beat it in with my wire whisk attachment, and it worked fine.  But maybe you want to be a perfectionist about it.)  Take 1/3 of the egg white mixture and fold it into the egg yolk mixture.  Put alternating spoonsful of the white and yellow mixtures into a greased 10" tube pan (the recipe says ungreased, but I greased mine anyway), then bake at 350F for 28 to 35 minutes, until the cake tests done.  Turn upside down on a plate to cool before removing the pan from the cake.  Frost with Fannie's own Light Butter Frosting:

LIGHT BUTTER ORANGE FROSTING

1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp orange rind*
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Beat the 1/2 cup confectioners sugar with the butter until well combined, add orange peel if desired, and set aside.  Beat the egg whites until stiff with the orange extract, and beat in the 1 cup confectioners sugar.  Combine the egg white and butter mixtures, adding more confectioner's sugar if necessary to thicken.  Frost the sides and top of the cake.

The frosting was a little runny, even after I refrigerated it, and my dearly beloved and Ryan both opined that the orange rind in the frosting was a little bitter the first night (it mellowed the second day), so take that into consideration when making this.  But overall, they loved this cake.  And while not as "fat free" as Angel Food Cake, it's still not bad for you.

So, Louise, I'm linking this recipe up with you! 

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Copper Beech

Have you ever seen a copper beech?  I'm not sure I had before we moved here.  Even now, I don't usually notice ours, because it's nestled in a corner of the property where the driveway and house are both looking away from it.


 Looking across part of our lawn toward our property line you can see it.


It's the tallest thing out there, and it's reddish purple. 

Aren't the leaves interesting?

My dearly beloved says it's certainly 300 years old.  For reference, the fence behind it is made up of 1" square steel bars spaced 6" apart.

Don't you love to just look up the trunk of a tree, through the branches?  Unfortunately, I'd brought my telephoto lens instead of the wide angle lens, and there was no way I was walking the half mile round trip back to the house, even to entertain all of you.  Sorry.

I hope you enjoyed my Copper Beech.  It's been a good friend to us for a long time, and to many others since before Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were born!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Visiting Dogs on Thorsday

I was going to review a book or 2 which I'd read, but I'm just not inspired.  So instead I'll introduce Natasha, who is not mine.

My lawyer daughter rescued a dog in May.  She told me it is a big dog; of course, I "yes,yes'ed" her, because everyone thinks a golden retriever is big, right?  And she told me it was very furry; naturally, I thought the size of the dog would be all fur.  Oh, and Natasha doesn't much care for men.  Terrific.  Because it's not like this family is 2/3 or so composed of men.

And then, for the Fourth of July weekend, Natasha the Russian Mountain Dog came to visit.  Turns out that she is about the size of a female mastiff, but fluffier.

And she liked the Great Red Protector.  Shannon said it's because he smells like her (and her daddy hopes she doesn't smell quite that poorly, as he said).

Natasha is really well trained.  Follows her person around like a shadow.  Doesn't bark.  Doesn't beg.  Doesn't counter surf.  Doesn't even snag samples from the table or counter, although she easily could.

So Natasha will come to visit again, probably every 3 to 4 weeks, if her person follows previous patterns.  Meanwhile, she's now a paralegal, I guess, since she sits in her person's office every day to confer with clients in their "pet friendly" building.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Macaroni Salad for Independence Day

We had thunderstorms last Thursday and Friday nights.  That didn't stop the hungry hordes fromthinking that we should have Independence Day picnics, which I always hold indoors.  (In case you're new here, or have forgotten, I hate eating outside because I don't like bugs.  I also hate cooking outside because (a) I don't like bugs and (b) I hate black lines on my food.  Fussy, Fussy.)

One of the things my hungry horde demanded was macaroni salad.  I've never made such a thing.  My mother loved the stuff, and I just didn't, so cold pasta salads never made it into my repertoire.  So, I winged it.

MARJIE'S MACARONI SALAD

2 pounds elbow macaroni
1-1/2 cups lowfat mayonnaise
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 pound carrots, shredded
1 bunch scallions, coarsely chopped
1 cup nonfat milk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
fresh ground pepper

Boil the macaroni, strain and rinse with cold water.  Drop the strainer into iced water for a few minutes to complete the cooling process.  Meanwhile, in a giant bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and dijon mustard.  Whisk the milk into this mixture until it's thinner and creamy.  Add the relish, carrots and scallions, and stir until well combined.  Add pepper to taste (I used 20 turns).  Remove the macaroni from the iced water, shake the strainer well, and stir into the dressing.  Chill and serve.  It tastes better the second day, according to my hordes, who loved it from day one.

So there you are!  An easy side dish for these hot days!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Visitor

I went outside to take a picture of my dogwood, which has been blooming for about a week, and I found a brazen visitor standing right on my terrace.

 As I walked outside, she just looked at me,

And then strode toward me as if to say, "What are you doing in my yard?'

And then sashayed toward the house.  Not AWAY.  Toward.

And people wonder why I'm forever buying deer repellant spray to protect my plants from them.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Picnic Game!

Today is July 1, and the day Louise officially posts links to all of the participants in her Picnic Game!

If you haven't already stopped by, be sure to catch her round-up of all the delectable offerings, including my very own Angel Food Cake.

(And this is why Garden Tuesday fell on Monday this week.)

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Garden Tuesday: On Monday

I know it's Monday, but I felt the need to show you my peony.  The other one, which is white, already bloomed and I missed it.


Happy Tuesday a day early, everyone!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thorsday Book Review

I recently had the honor of being a beta reader for Honey the Great Dane's person's first adult book.  That sounds like a really cushy job, but it actually involves a lot of thinking, and the ability to be critical without feeling mean!  So I was delighted when Hsin-Yi sent me a gift copy of her very first adult book - only available on Kindle - classic chick-lit!

TENDER DECEIT
by H. Y. Hanna

Leah was a British expat raised in Singapore by her father after her mother died when she was a baby.  At the age of 14, her father abruptly sent her to boarding school back in Britain, and she never returned to Singapore.  One day, she received a phone call from the police in Singapore that her father was dead, killed by a hit-and-run driver.  As she worked to arrange time off from work and a flight, and pack some clothes, her roommate contacted her "first love" from 8th grade in Singapore, over a decade earlier, Toran James, and arranged for Leah to meet him for coffee while she was back in Singapore.

Seems like a simple enough trip, right?  Except that Leah perceives that she's being followed through the airports starting in London.  And her best friend Julie from Singapore tells her that she can't possibly meet Toran, because he was blown up on a yacht a couple of days ago.  Oh, and there's a dead body fished out of a river, and her father's house has been ransacked.  And, yes, that guy is still following her around.

This is a romantic personal mystery: personal because it involves foul play against people close to Leah, and there is some romance involving Toran.  This book isn't "explicit romance" (which seems to have come into vogue of late), and it works well.  Hsin-Yi has done well with her "Honey" mysteries, and she's proving herself to be a good adult author as well.  5/5

Note: I did receive a copy of this book to review, and no other compensation.  All opinions are my own.

This Thorsday Book review is hosted by Buffy, who looks like she's selecting a book to enjoy herself!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Angel Food Cake!

Every year, Louise hosts an online picnic. I wasn't going to join in this year, because life in my little corner of the world is incredibly busy this year, but I made this cake, and she graciously gave me the letter A, so here I am!



I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing.....

ANGEL FOOD CAKE

12 egg whites
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

Sift together the flour and cornstarch and set aside.

Bring the egg whites to room temperature and beat with the  cream of tartar until foamy.  Add the vanilla and almond extract and beat until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar 2 tbsp at a time and beat until stiff peaks form.  Fold in the flour mixture, turn into an ungreased 10" tube pan, and bake at 350F for 40 to 45 minutes.

My dearly beloved saw me separating the eggs, which he's evidently never witnessed before, and about jumped out of his skin in distress when he realized I was discarding the yolks, instead of keeping them for "something else."  It was rather amusing.

Ryan walked past the egg whites while they were beating, and declared that the scent was very tempting, and I should be sure to save some of this cake for when he got home from work.  Poor guy; as if I have ever failed to save him cake!

All in all, this is a much easier cake to make than one might imagine.  And just look at this light and fluffy texture!  It truly almost does qualify as "diet cake"!

On July 1, Louise will be featuring a roundup of all of the offerings for the Picnic Game, so be sure to check in with her then!  Happy Picnicking!