Tuesday, April 29, 2008


My familiy room has had the ivory drapes and green cornices shown on the left window in this picture for 19 years. I like them; they just aren't green enough (maybe because they're IVORY, dummy?). So when I saw floral drapes in the Penney's catalog, I decided to order them and hang both pair together. Now, I can't decide if I like the new window treatment well enough to finish the other 3 windows. I'd really like hunter green drapes to go with the floral, but I haven't seen anything in hunter green in I don't know how long.. Maybe I should take down the hard cornice and make swags and jabots from the new drapes, lined in hunter green chintz? I hope staring at this picture will help more than staring at the stinkin' window!

Monte Cristo Sandwiches and Flowered Dresses

It was warm last week. 70 degrees and sunny all week sort of warm, like we've not seen since last September. So, Friday night, I pulled out the pink floral fabric from which I so much wanted a dress, and went to work. The result was a lovely sundress, which I think I'll wear to my daughter's college graduation in a couple of weeks (but I digress). On Saturday, it was sunny and 75, so I wore my new sundress to wash my "winter beater" Cadillac (don't get excited, I used a car wash), weeded my rosebeds, and, in a move most uncharactistic of me, made lunch. Why is it uncharacteristic that I make lunch? Because lunch is the official "free range grazing" meal in my household. That's how I have trained my children, to some greater or lesser degree, to prepare their own food. Breakfast is waffles or eggs and toast or instant oatmeal, with no other alternatives. Dinner is whatever I say it is, and you will eat and like it or risk the wrath of Mom. Feed yourself lunch. No one is going to starve in the 8 to 10 hours or so between breakfast and dinner, so it's great training!

Anyway, Saturday being a sunny day, I was fondly recalling going to lunch with my dearly beloved when we were young and beautiful, and I happened upon the memory of the Monte Cristo sandwiches we used to get at Swensons. Thus, I decided that the Monte Cristo would be the perfect midday repast for a prett
y day; the day could have only been more perfect had the flowers been on my trees instead of just on my dress.


3 slices bread per sandwich
Sliced Turkey

Sliced Ham
Sliced Tomato
Thinly sliced Swiss Cheese
2 eggs per 3 sandwiches, whisked with 1 tsp. water, salt and pepper

Assemble the sandwiches in this order, from the bottom: bread, cheese, turkey, cheese, bread, cheese, ham, tomato, cheese, bread. Dip in the whisked egg, flipping to coat evenly. Cook on medium hot griddle (350 degrees), flipping over after about 3 minutes, or in the George Foreman Grill. Note that these are very filling, and would make a nice lazy evening's dinner, too!

I was so pleased with
the day, and my dress, that Saturday night I made a skirt from the same fabric. Unfortunately, it rained Sunday and Monday, and the temperature turned markedly cooler. While the sun has come out this afternoon, it's only 45 degrees out, and my poor little boys are wearing their winter jackets to ride their bikes. Thank goodness the plumber came last week and fixed the furnace so it would heat downstairs and supply hot water from its tankless coil. Hopefully the oil holds out another 2 to 3 weeks, until we can get the gas line installed from the street, and the plumber can return to convert the furnace from oil-fired to gas-fired.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Roast Beef

Not much one can say about roast beef. It's perfect, or it isn't. Last night, disgusted because we had no hot water, I cooked a roast beef (only one pot to scrub in cold water; and no, I haven't let my dearly beloved talk me into the world without pots and pans yet). I decided to try the method I found for pork roast in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks back. Perfect beef, perfect gravy...and it's hard to get an eye round roast to be tender.

1/2 eye round roast (about 3 lbs.)
1 onion, sliced thin
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup beef broth

Melt the butter in a dutch oven or small covered roaster. Add the roast, and brown on all sides. Remove to platter. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Whisk in oregano and cornstarch until smooth, then add the beef broth and whisk until thoroughly combined. Return the beef to the pot, placing on top of the onion. Let it cook at 325 for about 20 minutes per pound, or until it reaches a temperature of 130. Remove from the pan, and slice while keeping the gravy hot. Serve with potatoes and spinach.

The hot water is back on, but now my husband is talking about switching us from oil to natural gas ("I hate giving my money to the **@*#!! arabs!"), and is awaiting conversion prices from our plumber. Good thing that warmish weather is upon us, and it looks like I'm facing a few more days of no hot water soon. I'm sure there will be myriad complaints from my college students when they get home, but the little boys will be cheering loudly and raucously at the prospect of "No Baths!"

Spring and NYC

The little boys who live next door, and are the same age as my little boys, go to a small private school in the next town south. One of their classes was going to the Liberty Park Science Center, and, since the charter bus wasn't filled, my boys were offered the chance to go for $70. A bargain, I thought! A field trip, a break from school, a museum, and the Statue of Liberty across the harbor.

Every month, I have my youngest make a calendar of things that will be happening that month. It started when he was 3 years old, and wanted to know how long until Thanksgiving, then how long until Christmas. My mother in law suggested giving him a calendar so he could cross off the days; That worked great, until he started to ask when the big kids wouldn't have school. So, we colored weekend and school holidays yellow. That became a problem when he decided at about 3-1/2 that he wanted them home all the time, took a yellow crayon, and colored all of the days yellow for a month. Ah, the fun of children. When he entered Kindergarten, I got calendar creator software, started printing out blank calendars for each month, gluing them onto large sheets of paper, and having him fill in "events" on each day when they occurred, and making four larger drawings to show things from that month. Calendar study was included in those early math grades, so this made it much more real to him. So, in April, one of his things was seeing the Statue of Liberty, which has fascinated him since he was 2 (I don't know why). I loved his picture of the Statue; I don't think anyone has ever drawn her with legs before.This is the boys looking out the back of the museum; the statue is over Ryan's shoulder, in the upper left of the photo:
And, this is a picture Ryan took of New York City across the harbor. I thought it was beautiful; the sky was, shall we say, "picture perfect".And I'm glad to be here in my little town, with the magnolia having just bloomed; I still think it's a miracle that they've made a hybrid of a southern tree that I can grow here in the snowy northeast!
And my forsythia has finally bloomed! It did this Friday! In a week or 2, fruit trees will be blossoming, followed by dogwoods! And lilacs! And the yard smells magnificent, because all of my plantings are "heirloom plants", that is, planted before WWII - in 1929, to be exact!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

For the Man Who Dreams of a World With No Pans

When I met my husband, he was a single man living in a nice house with a dachsund, a kittycat and a pathetic excuse for an equipped kitchen. Oh, he had a beautiful stove. It had a normal oven, and then, a second one built in up top. Dishwasher, the biggest refrigerator on the market, lots of cupboards, gorgeous kitchen. In the cupboards resided 20 coffee mugs, sets of dishes and flatware from Bradlees (the northeastern equivalent of Target, now defunct). He also had one broiler pan, one skillet, one slotted spoon and one spatula. When I asked how anyone could possibly function in such a Spartan kitchen, his response was, "Pans are stupid. Mankind has been to the moon. Why can't we have high quality, fully functional, disposable pans that don't have to be scrubbed? Pans are stupid."

Last weekend, I happened upon this idea for chicken without a pan. My dearly beloved was ecstatic (despite the fact that he doesn't scrub the pans), and he even said that this had an interesting flavor.


4 pieces of foil, approx. 12"x18"
4 servings of chicken, boneless, sliced into 1/2"x3" chunks
about 1/2 lb. carrots, sliced lengthwise
2 ribs celery, split up the middle and cut in quarters lengthwise
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dillweed
1/2 cup leeks, sliced fairly thin
1 lemon, sliced thin
1/2 cup mushrooms, optional

Mix the olive oil and spices together with the leeks and lemon in a large bowl. Stir in the chicken.
Grease or spray the non-shiny side of each piece of foil. Arrange the carrots, then the celery, then the chicken pieces. Spoon the spice/lemon/leek mixture over each. Top with mushrooms if desired. Fold the foil over the chicken, cuffing the fold twice, then fold the ends twice, tightly. Bake in the oven at 500 degrees for 15 to 16 minutes, or cook on a grill for the same time. Remove from the heat and let it sit for 3 t
o 5 minutes. Serve with white rice. Note that I marked each of the packets with an initial for whose it was; obviously, we girls ate less than my husband, and I don't eat mushrooms (fungus? Me? no). This was nice because each packet could be individualized (and my youngest was enamored of having his own "personal" food); however, I still had to wash the foil before discarding it. Yes, I wash all of my trash. I don't want my can to stink, or attract insects or rodents, or vermin. So, I'll probably stick with those stupid pots that you have to wash, because mankind hasn't found a way to make good quality disposable pots. And, no, I don't even own a barbecue. I can't abide the thought of eating food that's been outside where there are insects, and I hate black lines on my food. Yes, even my kids think I'm nuts.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Peter M posted this recipe for Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette dressing last week. I just adore "Bunny Food", and so had to try this. I made a double batch, and it's at least half gone now. I urge everyone to try it!


1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped finely (about 6)
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste (I used none)

I let the tomatoes and spices soak in the vinegar for a couple of hours before adding the olive oil. It was great the first day, and even better the second.

All of here in the States know that this is the last date to file our income tax returns, and I'd like to acknowledge the hard work of all taxpayers, which keeps this country running. "Happy" Income Tax Day, and for interesting reading on a historic perspective of taxation, find a copy of "For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization". I read the book about 20 years ago, and found it fascinating. It's food for thought.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thanks, Pam!

Holy Cow! I can't believe Pam at Sidewalk Shoes bestowed this honor on me! Yeah, yeah, lots of people have gotten an E. But me? Holy cow again! And, thank you, Pam!

The rules are thatI must nominate 10 bloggers for the E for excellent award. I must link to Pam's page, above, and I must notify my people that they've received the award.

Well, the first person I'd have nominated is Pam. And the second is Peter the Greek Cooking God, who Pam beat me to (he appears to be single - the ladies in Canada must not fully appreciate his awesome cooking talent). And, I'm going to have to follow Pam's lead and only nominate 5, because, as demonstrated above, so many of my favorites are already Excellent!

First, Debbie Cook at Stitches and Seams. She cooks some (I made her excellent Sweet Potato Bread). She sews wonderfully! And she occasionally gives us adorable pictures of her doggies at the dog park, or her walks with them. Yes, I'm jealous when she's griping about 80 degrees and I'm shivering at 30, but that's just another wonder of our vast and glorious country. And she's funny, too!

Next, Cidell at Miss Celie's Pants. She makes beautiful dresses, gives us glimpses of places she goes, inspired me to figure out how to make a lapped zipper for the first time in my 35-plus years sewing, and even makes glamorous aprons!

Marji at Fiber Arts Afloat. Nice writing, nice pictures, some cooking, lots of sewing. Plus, she just gave away 50 unneeded items from her sewing stash! You've got to be a very nice lady to do all of that!

Carolyn, the Sewing Fanatic, should inspire everyone. I loved that she let her readers vote on her color combo for her Easter outfit. I loved that she made her daughter a new Easter skirt on a day's notice. And I especially love that she re-uses her patterns over and over, as I do, so I'm not the only one in the world with 25 identical skirts in different colors and/or fabrics.

Finally, Trina in Manila is using Calvert School also. Hers is a nice look at raising and teaching a little boy in the Phillippines. I enjoy her writing about her field trips with her son, and I very much appreciate her photos of Manila - a place I'll never get to. Even if I did, I'd never see it from the perspective of someone who lives there. A fascinating glimpse into life on the other side of the world.

I hope none of my nominees are bothered by my awards, if they are duplicates; I hope I've not offended anyone I thought already has this award by not giving it to them; and now I'm going to pretend I'm Excellent while cooking my fish! And, thanks again, Pam!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

DIY Pizza

Yesterday, we had a lovely, 65 degree day - our first real, live taste of spring. I swear that I watched my lawn getting greener by the hour. (Chew fingernails nervously) My son Jeffrey won't be home from college until May 10th, so, while I'll reluctantly ride the tractor right next to the house, the chances of me mowing my entire yard are less than the chances of me wearing a sweatsuit (which I've never in my life owned - if you can't wear it with minimum 2" heels, pearls and diamonds, it's not in my wardrobe). Of course, after playing outside all day, I thought the little boys deserved an exciting dinner. They had been clamoring for pizza, and while there are plenty of real Italian pizzerias around here, I just don't like the stuff well enough to fork over $30 or $40 to feed a measley 4 people.

So, off we trotted to the supermarket to buy sausage for pizza; of course, Ryan wanted a pepper (which I can't eat, and didn't want, but couldn't refuse the kid for a buck). I tried Beth Hensperger's recipe for whole wheat pizza crust, precooked the sausage in the George Foreman grill, then sliced (and sort of crumbled) them in the new Cuisinart, and laid out bowls of toppings. And, yes, I did indeed use canned sauce; I just didn't feel like making my own. It was delicious.


1-1/3 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
2-1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. yeast
1 tbsp. sugar

Put all the ingredients in the bread machine, and mix on the "pasta" cycle. Let rise for 15 minutes, then flatten the dough to the desired size. This will make 2 trays approx. 11'x14". Note that the sugar was not in the original recipe, but since it was in all of her other pizza dough recipes, I added the same amount to this recipe. The tray should be coated with olive oil and sprinkled with cornmeal to ensure that it doesn't stick, although pan spray would probably work. Also, Beth Hensperger notes that this dough is hard to use, and you may develop holes in it as you flatten it. Well, even with my rolling pin, I got holes. Great thing about bread doughs - you can fix the hole and move on. I used added half again as much of each, to make two full sized trays and 2 "smaller ones" for the boys - Mark eagerly dubbed it his "free personal pan pizza" (I believe his buddy next door must have gotten the Pizza Hut reading award). No one ever noticed that this was not a standard pizza crust; my husband, who grew up just outside the very Italian city of New Haven, and considers himself an expert on Italian food (yeah, right - this from the man who's not certain he can cook instant oatmeal) said this was the best pizza he's ever had. Until about an hour later, after he had eaten an entire tray:

Hubby: "groan This is all your fault!"
Me: "Why?"
"You fed me!"
"I did not. I put out the pizza, and let you eat what you wanted."
"You should have fed me."
"You're a big
"But I'm stupid....groan"

I do adore the man. He makes me laugh, even when he overeats (which is rare, because I feed him).

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Different Turkey Cordon Bleu

I needed a fast dinner last night. Too bad for me that I had planned turkey! So i decided to make a simplified cordon bleu. I used boneless turkey breast, sliced about 3/8" thick. I only regret that I used any salt in the recipe. So, without further verbiage, I present...


3 to 4 pounds boneless turkey breast, sliced
1 stick butter
1/2 minced onion
garlic powder

swiss cheese
chopped parsley
White sauce: 2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup white wine
ground pepper
chopped parsley

Melt the butter in the bottom of a broiler pan; add the onion and cook about 1 minute. Place the turkey slices in the butter, then flip to coat both sides. Sprinkle the top with garlic powder and pepper; broil for 6 minu
tes. Remove from the broiler, flip the turkey, sprikle the uncooked side with garlic powder and pepper, and broil for 5 minutes. Remove from the broiler, top each piece with chopped parsley, sliced ham and sliced or grated swiss cheese. Return to the broiler for 2 minutes. While the second half of the turkey is cooking, melt the 2 tbsp butter in a sauce pan. Whisk in the cornstarch until smooth, then the liquids, whisking until smooth after each addition. Heat until thickened. Serve with angel hair tossed with butter and parsley, and white sauce.

Poor Thor didn't get much from this meal; fortunately, he thinks he's an Italian English Mastiff,
and will eat pasta any time! Which is a good thing, since he doesn't believe he's eaten unless he gets some "human" food in his bowl.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fish with Lemon Cream Sauce

Most of my kids don't like fish, so I only cook it once or twice a week; they have steak while the parents dine on fish. Having been to a grocery store on Friday night, for the first time in about 6 months, and having seen a lovely bag of lemons, "Lemon" seems to be my theme of the week. This was simple and fast!


2 tbsp. butter
1 lb. haddock (or other) fish filets
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp tarragon
1 lemon, sliced

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a skillet. Lightly salt and pepper the fish. Cook the fish over medium-high heat for about 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and finish cooking the other side. Remove the fish to a plate and keep it warm while making the sauce. Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet. Whisk in the cornstarch; when it's smooth, add the cream and milk, whisking until smooth. Heat until it thickens, then stir in the tarragon and lemon slices. Simmer for one minute, return the fish to the pan, and reheat for anothe
r minute. Serve with white rice and spinach or a salad.

My youngest son, Mark, likes fish, as long as it's "food fish" not "friend fish" (maybe we've seen too much of Nemo?). When he was 4, we got him this funny bear for his birthday. When you squeeze his paw, the Fish Bear growls and the ends of his fish flap
. The first time it happened, the poor little guy screamed and hid his face against his Daddy. I was forced to explain, most sincerely, that this was a very nice bear who was not harming the fish, but, in fact, saving him from drowning.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Orange Skirt and the Dress That Isn't.

Sunday we finally had a sunny day, so, of course, I wanted new clothes. I had a skirt pattern wit a view I thought I'd like, but hadn't tried, and an orange floral fabric that I bought by mistake. You see, I don't wear orange; it doesn't become my ultra white complexion and reddish hair. Therefore, I thought, a skirt from mistake fabric; if it fails, no harm! So I made the orange skirt, and, inspired by Cidell's post a while back about a cocktail dress with a lapped zipper, I decided to figure out the structure of a lapped zipper application, and put one in for the first time in my life. I liked the appearance, and may very well start using such an application more often. And, yes, I know it's weird that I had to figure out the structure of the zipper opening, but I'm a mechanical engineer; I have to engineer everything in my head. I rarely follow directions, either, although I know that's supposed to be a male trait, because I won't do anything until I know how it's done.

Anyway, I liked the hang of this skirt, because it was cut on the bias, as opposed to on the grain, but I don't like the center front seam; I'll need to engineer the solution to this problem before I tackle this skirt again.

I also made
a dress from this pink fabric, or at least the body of it, but it was a sheath style dress, and didn't do well on me with the patterned fabric - I thought I looked like a beached whale. So, with the remaining 4 yards I'm going to make a sundress with a flared skirt and a little bolero type jacket. I may even do that next weekend. I know I had resolved to sew one outfit (or was it garment?) per month this year, but I haven't been inspired this year. Sunshine and our first 60 degree day inspired me.

Lemon Chicken (2)

I guess I've done a different version of lemon chicken before. This was last night's dinner, and my husband's comment was, "This is much better than your usual chicken." All of the kids loved it, too. The framework for this comes from Craig Claiborn's New York Times Menu Cookbook. A couple of extra ingredients and different procedure compliments of me.


3 pounds boneless chicken, cut into 1" wide strips (about 6 per full chicken breast or 2 per thigh)
salt and pepper to taste
1 stick butter
1/2 cup minced onion and/or scallion (I mixed the two)
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup parsley
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp. cornstarch

In the bottom of the broiler pan, melt the stick of butter. Add the onion/scallion and marjoram; cook for 1 minute. Arrange all of the chicken pieces in the pan atop the onion/butter mix, then flip them over so the butter coated side is up. Lightly salt and generously pepper the chicken, then cook under the broiler for 7 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over, and salt/pepper the second side. Return to the broiler for 5 minutes. Carefully pour the lemon juice and chicken broth around the chicken pieces, and return to the broiler for 3 to 4 minutes, until the chicken is done. Remove the chicken from the pan to a serving platter, and place the broiler pan on 2 burners at medium heat. Return the pan juices to the boil, then add the water with cornstarch whisked in. Whisk until smooth, and continue stirring until the sauce thickens. Add the parsley and lemon slices, and cook for one to two minutes more. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken, and pass the rest. Serve with buttered spaghetti.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring is on the way

My back yard doesn't look much like spring this weekend.

Nor does my forsythia, at least from a distance.

Up close, the forsythia does show signs of spring!

So, I ventured onto my back terrace in search of those tiny blue flowers which are always an early harbinger of spring, and found them "on the way"!

And, my magnolia is breaking bud! (Imagine, a strain of what we typically think of as a southern tree, able to grow here in the cold climates! Oh, happy day!)

My house is nearly 80 years old, and some of the plantings are about that old. I am just thankful that the original owners didn't do this:

Those are cedar arches, from a photo in the 1928 Audel's Gardener's and Grower's Guide. I do love the 1920s era books; they are full of unusual information and wonderful pictures. Consider this , the opening paragraph in the same book's Chapter XVIII, "Lawn Making":

"An English gardener, when asked how to make a lown, replied: "Oh, it's quite easy, quite easy, I assure you. You prepare the ground carefully, and you sow it with a mixture of the best grades of lawn grass seed, and all you have to do is roll it for about three hundred years. And there you are."

Obviously, our lawn fertilization program is mulching our autumn leaves, and that didn't happen last fall, since the snow flew before all the leaves were down. Nonetheless, as soon as our ground dries out somewhat, it's raking and mulching for us (by which I mean my sons, since I don't do outdoor labor). It's been raining 4 or 5 days a week of late; I feel like I've moved to Portland with Paula!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pasta Primavera, sort of

My 11 year old is a fidgeter. The kid won't sit without fidgeting; it drives most everyone nuts. His fidgeting has resulted in untold glasses of milk being dumped on the dinner table, breakage, dropping.... In the past few days, he's had this fascination with his tack hammer. Yes, my kid has a small tool set. It's a good thing for him to have, except at the school table, which is where this hammer has been hanging around. I remove it, he fetches it back. Yesterday, while I was standing next to him giving the boys paper for their daily spelling tests, he was fidgeting with his hammer, and dropped it. On my foot. Mother was greatly displeased, to say the very least. Obviously, that foot ached all day yesterday (today it's just a lovely shade of pale blue). So, he was my "gofer" while I cooked dinner last night. The turkey went into the oven in advance, but what to do about the side dishes? Some reasonable facsimilie of Pasta Primavera seemed in order, as I stood, cranelike, on one foot. Ryan brought, at my behest, all of the partial packages of veggies from the freezer, and I chose broccoli and cauliflower. To these I added freshly sliced carrots, mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes. While the penne cooked, I parboiled all of these. Since I've tried sun dried tomatoes once before, and found them too salty, I came up with the bright idea of adding them to the other veggies as they cooked, to transfer the salt. It tasted fine, but everything came out with a lovely reddish brown cast to it; naturally, this caused everyone to question my food. All in all, however, when the pasta was tossed with 2 sticks of butter, garlic powder, oregano and a total of about 1-1/2 pounds of vegetables, it was quite tasty. For dessert? Applesauce muffins, only 6 of which lasted until breakfast time.


1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup applesauce
1 egg
2 T vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp powdered milk
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Stir all ingredients together; batter will be lumpy. Spoon into 24 mini muffin pans and sprinkle sugar or cinnamon-sugar over them. Bake at 400 for 12 to 14 minutes, or until done.

(Again, it's me and the mini muffins. I just feel happier if I can have 2 instead of 1, even if each item is smaller.)