Friday, May 30, 2008

Eat Dessert First!

Poor Mark really wanted to roast marshmallows last weekend. However, we never could get everyone together, and so it kept getting postponed. So, last night, knowing that Kellie would be home around 9 after work, and dinner was delayed accordingly, I set the little boys and Cass to building a little fire in the firebowl around 8PM. They finished as Kellie arrived home, and Mom announced, "Guys! Life is Short! Eat Dessert First!" A frenzied rush to the backyard ensued, a pound each of graham crackers and 2 pounds of marshmallows were sacrificed for the greater good of Mark's s'mores, and a rollicking jolly time was had by all!Incidentally, Jeff (in yellow) has a long red ponytail. He lives in the same WVU dorm as most of the football players, and, given his distinct appearance and great height (6'5"), is friendly with many of them. He was amused to report recently that during a conversation with Noel Devine and Jock Sanders, 2 of their best players, it was suggested that he get dreadlocks. (This is before he knew who they were; they were just "short black guys".) To the horror of a buddy who overheard him, he responded, "What are you, a dumb**s? I'm white! It won't work!" His buddy told him he couldn't talk that way to Noel Devine, and Jeff said, "Why not? I am white, and dreadlocks just won't work!"

Edited to add: Thor doesn't go to marshmallow roasts. He doesn't much like the heat of the fire. So, he was about 20 feet away, in the cool grass.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Day Sewing

Over Memorial Day weekend, I was inspired to sew for myself. First up was this skirt. I made it from the balance of one piece of fabric I'd used for a skirt for my daughter. I guess I had purchased a lot of this fabric, because I made her a skirt and a vest, and still had enough left over for me. The fabric is an ecru tone-on-tone stripe, and I just love it!Next was a "UFO" - unfinished object. This halter style top has been languishing for over 18 months because I was too lazy to sew on 4 buttons and make buttonholes. I found it. I finished it. It's just too dang cold to wear it for the past few days. It's an ice blue fabric - very unusual color.This one was way beyond UFO. I found a pattern that I thought would be really cute, and cut it out, again, at least 18 months ago. Then I decided the shirring was more than I wanted to take on that day, and stuffed the pieces in the drawer. And there they remained....forever....until I found it. It's pretty cute, but I may give it to one of my girls; they are much younger and cuter than I.Last, I had this great sage green fabric, and had purchased a Vogue pattern with this fabric in mind back along about September. Feeling ambitious, I laid it out, and just carried on until it was done.Looking at these terrible photos, I see why no one photographs their garments flat. But (a) it's simply been too cold at 55 degrees or less this week for me to wear any of these, and (b) it's hard to get pictures of the person who's always operating the camera, anyway. This weekend, I plan to finish the last 1-1/2 skirts for my daughter (I had started 5 skirts, finished the black, blue stripe and ecru textured skirt, then the zipper didn't match the off white solid skirt well enough for me to want to finish it, so I had to wait for my shipment from to arrive with white invisible zippers. Yes, I ordered a herd of zippers onling, about 180, in fact, for about $85 including shipping. Yes, I admit that I'm 2 or 3 degrees off plumb. But how could I not adore those prices? Anyway, the solid white skirt lacks only the invisible zipper, waistband and hem, then, on to the burgundy skirt! I hope to finish those this weekend, and then, I'll take pictures of those, flat, too.

Come to think of it, my pictures look a lot like those on the American Eagle website, and they make a bucketload of money - at least, I hope they do, given their prices - so maybe these photos are not quite so horrid, after all.

Haddock Florentine

Another installment of fish cooked in parchment yielded this simple twist on a classic recipe. My husband wanted to know why there wasn't more ("Because I feed you, remember? So you don't overfeed yourself...").


1 tomato, sliced
1/2 pound frozen spinach
4 slices swiss cheese
1 pound boneless haddock fillets
sliced mushrooms
chopped scallions

Lay the half tomato slices in a line on each piece of parchment, approximately the dimensions of the fish. Put 1/4 of the spinach on each liine of tomatoes, and top with one slice of cheese. Put the fillet atop the cheese, divide the spinach evenly between each portion, top with mushrooms (if desired) and scallions, and put the second slice of swiss cheese on top of the whole thing. Fold the top of the parchment over, then roll the ends closed. Bake at 500 for 12 to 15 minutes, and serve immediately. Can also be made in foil on a hot grill.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day - With Pets!

On Friday, I heard Thor whining from the porch toward the back lawn. He couldn't get there because the screen door was closed, so I looked out the breakfast room window to see what he was whining at. I saw this little guy:Thor is known to be a friend to small animals. Sunday, the little boys took their guinea pigs outside to play and graze. The little dopes immediately tried to take off, so they sat down with their feet together, to form a pig-pen. Thor was right there throughout.

Cinnamon kept looking around to see what was going on.

Neither of these little dopes seemed to recognize that they had been taken to prime grazing area! They just kept racing in circles.

A few years back, when the girls were smaller, they had a guinea pig named Porky. They often took Porky out to play; of course, Thor always joined the fun. One day, the girls were distracted and wandered off. Thor remained sitting at their exact spot on the lawn. Jeffrey was mowing the lawn, and was agitated that Thor refused to move. When he came closer to investigate, Jeff discovered that Thor was guarding Porky. He stomped inside to return Porky to his home, and chewed the girls out royally for their neglect. Thor, of course, was everyone's hero.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"New" Car

I admit it; I have a car problem. The problem is that I simply don't like new cars, and I'm not helped any by my very tall husband bellowing that everything smaller than my 1996 Cadillac (my "winter beater") is a f*** subcompact. So, a few years back, for our 25th anniversary, I bought my husband the same car he drove when we were dating, except that he didn't like the wheels, and it didn't have a moonroof. Fast forward to this January, when I was bored one night, and found a replica of the car he has long stated was his favorite ever:

Yes, with 21,560 miles on it, this puppy was ours! The driver of the car ca
rrier was an idiot; it took him darn near an hour to take the car off the truck (and he only had to unload one other to get to it) after he got lost (I never did figure out what part of "Follow the interstate until it ends, then turn right" was unclear), and then the thing wouldn't run right. Nonetheless, with one of 3 of our town's finest watching, I drove the car, unregistered, around the block and then home, where it sat in my garage for 4 months. Today, I got it back; the problem was not the exhaust, as I feared, but a malfunctioning choke - hooray! Problem solved for only $200!

Now, I take it back. I'd like to have a new Rolls with the V-12 engine, because I love big, powerful engines. But I'm not going to spend the price of a house for a car.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Boots in Wyoming

This is my last post about Wyoming. I've seen "community pride" art events like this one before; one city had artists decorating mules, and another decorated carousel horses. Usually, a business sponsors the object, and a local artist donates his/her time to decorate it. Boots in Cheyenne, Wyoming seemed appropriate to me! Without further verbiage, enjoy my "Tour des Boots"!There were more boots than these, but I couldn't stop anywhere convenient to take pictures. These were a good sampling!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thunder Cake

The name for this cake is derived from a story in my son's 2nd grade Calvert School reading book. It is an excellent chocolate cake. In fact, while I hate all chocolate flavored baked goods (I am a chocolate purist, and will eat a lot of it, if given the chance), I tried this cake the first time I made it, and I loved it! Just don't tell anyone about the "secret ingredient", because they will become suspicious of the cake.


Sift together and set aside:
2-1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Beat until stiff and set aside
3 egg whites

Cream together, in this order, one at a time:

1 cup butter
1-3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup finely pureed tomato
1 cup cold water

Add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture.

Fold in the egg whites.

Pour into generously greased and lightly floured 8" layer pans. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely and frost.

The original recipe called for chocolate frosting, but I use buttercream frosting.

There was just under half a cake left after dessert last night, but it all disappeared during breakfast today. Is this nota testament to its great flavor? (Or is it just because there are 9 people in the house at present?)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chicken in Buttermilk

This recipe was inspired by the Wall Street Journal. Yes, that again. (My husband wants to know if the next issue of Gourmet magazine will have articles on arbitrage and hedge funds.)

The original recipe called for cooking this on the stovetop in 4 times as much buttermilk, and throwing out the buttermilk. I thought that sounded like a waste of a perfectly dandy gravy base, so here's my version:


4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. cornstarch
2 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Arrange the chicken pieces in a baking pan and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the cornstarch; when it's smooth, whisk in the buttermilk. Stir in the spices and cook until thickened. Caution: the sauce will be very, very thick. Don't worry. Pour it over the chicken in the baking pan and bake at 350 for about an hour, or until the chicken is done. The juices from cooking the chicken will have thinned the buttermilk sauce, and it should be absolutely perfect. I served this over a bed of egg noodles, but I suspect it would work quite well with rice, as well. Note: If you don't keep buttermilk in the house, and I don't, you can use 2 cups of water with 1/2 cup of buttermilk powder, sold in the same supermarket aisle as the powdered milk. I promise, it's terrific; poor Thor barely got any leftovers.

And, yes, all but 2 of the big kids are home. So my recipes are a little larger in this season; sorry!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Poissoin Italienne en Papillote

Yeah, I made that name up as I went along. Seriously, though, this was good fish. I bought a case of tomatoes with Friday's grocery order, and this was an excellent use of one. Again, no-mess cleanup

1 pound white fish
1 tomato, pureed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 T butter
2 scallions, chopped
shredded mozzarella
4 mushrooms per serving (optional)

Melt the butter with the garlic & spices. Arrange the mushrooms, if desired, in the center of each of 2 squares of parchment which have been positioned on a baking sheet. Place the fish atop the mushrooms, followed by half a scallion per piece, then half the tomato puree, the remaining half a scallion, and the mozzarella. Drizzle the butter/seasoning mix over the fish, fold the parchment closed, and bake in a preheated 500 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. This can also be done on a grill by substituting foil for parchment. I served it with mini penne mixed with scallions, pureed tomato and butter.

Food delivery

Just in case anyone wondered what it takes to feed 10 people for a month, these are my primary refrigerators, Friday afternoon, after the delivery. An under-counter refrigerator holds another 9 gallons of milk, one in the basement holds 100 pounds of flour and half a case of yeast, a chest freezer holds frozen veggies, and the upright freezer has the rest of the meat in it. Total bill for the month, excluding the milk we'll buy starting in about 10 days: $1082. And, yes, there was another case of bananas on top of the fridges.

Sculpture in Wyoming

We saw a large number of statues during our trip to Wyoming. Since Ryan's been learning about Sculpture in Calvert's Art History class this year, he was quite a bit more excited about this than he would otherwise have been.

In front of the Wyoming state capital building is an enormous statue of a buffalo. I believe it to be larger than life sized, but don't know for certain.
This statue is Steamboat. He's the horse you see on the license plates, and quarters, and state letterhead and....well, you get the idea. Supposedly, he was never ridden successfully. Ryan's comment was, "This is a fine equestrian statue." Without Calvert's Art History course, he wouldn't know an equestrian statue from any other type, which goes to show that kids absorb all sorts of unusual things, if given the opportunity!This is a picture of the boys standing in front of a statue of Ben Franklin. This is reputed to be only one of three in which Ben is depicted standing up. Another is located in Paris, and I am not certain where the third one is. I really don't know what connection ol' Ben has to Wyoming, but he's holding a key in his left hand!These last 2 photos are of a bust of Abraham Lincoln, located at the highest point on I-80, midway between Cheyenne and Laramie. The elevation here is over 8000 feet. Of course, it was snowing, so I wasn't about to stop to take pretty pictures. Although I have asked many people over the course of the last 15 years, no one can tell me why Abe is here instead of, George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson, without whose Louisiana Purchase there would be no Wyoming, or even Teddy Roosevelt. One of life's small mysteries.Up next:: the boots in Cheyenne

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ryan's Birthday

Today is Ryan's 12th birthday. Because his sister is working out of state starting this week, we held his celebration over the weekend. The artistic sister decorated the cake with a pirate ship, complete with pirate on deck saying, "Yarg!" The Lake Erie Monster (similar to the Loch Ness Monster but heretofore unknown) is also featured. We are nothing here if not creative.

A good time was had by all; and, yes, the cake lasted 24 hours - but only
because the unspoken code of conduct states that any leftover cake belongs solely to the birthday person unless he/she decided to share with other(s).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Buffalo Burgers!

I'd love to claim that I cooked buffalo burgers, or even that I at least took a photo of them. Sadly, neither is true.

In excess of a decade ago, we took the kids to Cheyenne, and, while there, visited the Terry Bison Ranch, watched some rodeo, ate some bison (or buffalo), and then came back for more. Bison is similar to beef, but much less fatty, and very tender when cooked right. And man can these people cook it right! The place is intriguing (at least to me) because Teddy Roosevelt was there once while president, and once after he was finished. This is the ranch that virtually single handedly saved the western Bison from extinction. (Sadly, the Eastern Bison, which was larger, has been extinct since 1910, when the last specimens were killed in Kentucky. The last herd was killed in Pittsburgh a few years before that). A few wonderful facts about Bison:

They eat 1/3 less than cattle, despite the fact that they are larger.

They only need to drink once every 3 days.

The giant mound of fur on their heads is called a cape, and they can flip it forward so it acts as a snowplow in deep snow.They are very fast, in spite of their great bulk, and quite foul tempered.

Buffalo have no natural predators, and are disease free. That means that buffalo meat is automatically organic, since they graze only!

When they were put on the endangered list, 100 years ago, there were perhaps 200 to 300 buffalo left in the west. Now there are around 70,000, including these 1 to 2 week old babies. A female buffalo, if she senses danger, can stop in mid-labor and wait for up to a week to deliver with no harm to the calf.Their breeding bull is named Tinkerbell (I find this hilarious) because he was an orphan, and used to hop up and down excitedly when his food was being brought to him. The older a buffalo, the more worn down his horns, because they've used them.

The Terry Bison Ranch has always occupied a bit under 50,000 acres south of Cheyenne, into northern Colorado. For a time it was owned by Gov. F. E. Warren, and was so vast that it ran from Cheyenne 50 miles east, west and south. Nevermind dwarfing Rhode Island, it was comparable in size to all of Connecticut, for pity's sake! That's a lot of ground!

Should you ever be in Eastern Colorado or Wyoming, it's well worth the visit.

Friday, May 16, 2008


One of my favorite vegetables is asparagus. Fresh only, please; no canned or frozen asparagus for me. This is exactly the right season for it, too, of course. I stumbled upon this way of cooking asparatus many years ago, and my husband balks at eating it any other way.

In a skillet, melt 1/2 stick butter. Cut asparagus diagonally in 1" long pieces, discarding only the witish sections or the last 1/2" of the stalk. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper to the melted butter, then stir the asparagus into it. Saute on medium low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender.

It's not original, but it is great, and wastes much less of the asparagus than other cooking methods.

Now, my law school daughter wanted suits and none of the skirts fit her. I have definitive proof of size inflation, because my size 5 skirts and suits from 1983 fit her perfectly (yes, she is and I was 5'4" and 112 lbs, hardly underweight or anorexic). Of course, she doesn't want my suits, but at least I know I'm not nuts. So, I bought her 3 blazers last night, and I fear we are sewing this weekend.

Sour Cream Pound Cake

I love pound cake. I try to keep my butt away from it, to save myself from looking like the broad side of a barn, but that's another story....anyway, this was a very rich pound cake, with just a bit of zip to it. I served it with strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

From the Better Homes Cookbook c. 1989


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.

Bring the first 4 ingredients to room temperature. Cream the butter, then add sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sour cream, then the eggs, 1 at a time, beating for a minute or so after each one. Scrape the bowl, if necessary. Next, slowly pour the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Pour into a 9"x5" loaf pan, and bake at 325 for 60 to 75 minutes. Dust the top with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve plain or (as I did) with fruit.

The cookbook suggests that fresh blueberries can be stirred into the batter before baking, but I didn't try it.

This photo was taken after 7 slices had been taken from the pan. I wanted a pretty picture with the strawberries and cream, but none of the kids would leave theirs alone long enough for me to photograph. Hardly surprising.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

For the Man Who Dreams of a World with No Pans, Part 2

I'm down to very few main dish selections in my lovely domicile, because the restaurant supply house delivers Friday. Accordingly, last night was steak for the kids, and fish for the parents. Having a broiler pan to scrub was enough; I decided to try wrapping my fish, with seasonings and such, in parchment to see how it worked. This was a wonderful dish; if you used foil, it could be cooked on the grill instead of in an oven. Personally, I don't grill, for 2 reasons: (1) I hate black lines on my food, and (2) I can't stand the thought of eating outside with insects and crawly things, much less eating food which has been prepared on a cooking device that lives outside with insects and crawly things. Yes, that's the same mental block which caused me to smash one of my own plates after a guest fed my dog off it, instead of handing the plate to me so I could put the food in my dog;s dish. Anyway, I digress.


1 pound boneless haddock filet, split into servings
1/2 cup carrots, sliced lengthwise (use the food processor & save your fingers)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms, optional
1 lemon, sliced thin
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. greshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cornstarch

Melt the butter; stir in spices and scallions, then add cornstarch and stir well. Add lemon juice.

Arrange the carrots as a bed in a square of parchment, then add mushrooms for those who desire them. Place the fish atop the mushrooms, then top the fish with lemon slices. Pour the butter combination over the fish, and fold the parchment closed, first bringing the ends up to prevent leakage of the liquids, then folding the sides up, paper bag style. Put the fish packets on a baking sheet, and bake at 500 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with the fork. Serve with rice or noodles. Cleanup involves tossing the parchment, and wiping the baking tray - near nirvana for the man who dreams of a world with no pans (as opposed to the man I saw at a university recently, who was wearing a dark green kilt, and who is said to never wear pants: he may be a man who dreams of a world with no pants!).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


We now interrupt our planned coverage of our trip to Wyoming to bring these beautifull, springy photos of Marjie's yard when she returned home. While I'd like to supply you with "scratch & sniff" photos of my yard, you'll simply have to imagine the sweetest perfume you've ever encountered (unless, of course, you have a burning desire to scratch your monitor. Far be it from me to deprive you of your heart's desires.)

My earliest dogwood tree to bloom (several more will bloom in the next 2 weeks)

Pale purple lilacs (I have about 6 of these)

I love this dark purple lilac. It is the only one of its kind.

And did you know holly bushes flower in spring? We generally only think of them having those lovely red berries in wintertime!

Back to less green photos tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


We didn't charter a plane to Wyoming, and we didn't drive. Either of those would have been my choice over flying commercial, but I couldn't justify the price of the charter, and couldn't talk my dearly beloved into hopping in the car for a 1700 mile jaunt. So, to the airport we went. Oxygen shock in Denver was pretty brutal; you just don't think about the differential in the oxygen content in the air between our elevation, around 800 feet, and Denver, the Mile High City. My poor husband was positively grey as he puffed through the airport, and I wasn't doing all that well - this despite the fact that I had taken up walking about a mile every day for 3 months beforehand. The little guys, of course, were hopping around like it was just any old Thursday. They were amazed at the working oil wells (and my 8 year old wanted to know if we would see any "gushers") and natural gas wells. There is a lot of sky out there, and the grass is not the same color as we see here. Much less water, and spring isn't really there yet. The marvelous car rental agency did not have the Town Car I had specifically requested, and I had to sort this out with a guy to whom English was assuredly not a first language. ("What part of 'I do not want a truck' do you fail to understand?"). Then, when I hit the snowstorm on I-80, I was almost sorry I hadn't gotten the truck.

Laramie must be about 4-1/2 miles long. I drove down Grand Avenue, the main east-west road. At 45th street, there's just a berm and this lovely view of ranchland. The University is nice enough, but I felt rather claustrophobic there. The buildings are very close together, and you can only drive around the 4 sides of the campus, from a practical standpoint. Given what I found at 45th Street, I really don't understand why the state doesn't add to the size of the campus, but, hey, they didn't ask me for my opinion. I did chuckle at the Library Bar. Their sign said, "Mom and Dad! This is where your kid has been when he said he was at the Library!"

We stopped at the smallest town in the country, Buford, Wyoming. Notice the population; I went into their gas station/trading post and counted exactly one soul. Notice also the snow embedded in the fence post beside the boys. This photo was taken Saturday, on my way back across I-80 to Cheyenne, and it was snowing again! Foolish me, I thought May was spring. Obviously, I didn't wear the pink sundress I'd chosen for my daughter's graduation; in fact, I took a long leather coat I'd bought her and she had never worn ("Blondes can't wear tan, Mooooothhhherrrrr!").

And the little boys got to see dinosaur skeletons. Lots of dino sk
eletons. And what little boy doesn't love dinos? And aside from the fact that the airline gave me a hard time about getting on the plane (yes - I do so look like a troublemaker), taking the redeye back from Denver to Philly on Saturday night was brilliant. Even though we live 125 miles away, the flight was over $250 per person cheaper by returning to Philly in the middle of the night, and that more than paid the $420 for the limo to bring us home. We all slept, stretched out on the lovely leather stretch limo seats, and someone else did the driving, and I still saved $600 over flying in and out of my home airport. If I had flown both ways out of Philadelphia, it would have cost more, factoring in the cost of gas. Sometimes, all the stars align just right, don't they?

Monday, May 12, 2008

My Daughter's Graduation

Thursday afternoon, we flew to Denver; our first daughter (4th child) was graduating from the University of Wyoming. She did this in only 3 years, which is remarkable enough that the Dean of the College of Business knows her by name; he's even told her that the only person younger than she to ever graduate did so about 50 years ago. The weather sucked, at least from my perspective. 31 degrees with snow and a nasty wind does not a happy event make. They made light of this in the graduation ceremony; one of the speakers commented that he was glad it had snowed that morning, because it would have been the first graduation in 7 years without snow. For myself, I'd have made the sacrifice of tradition. This is my beautiful daughter in the processional:
Walking across the stage to get her diploma:And with her empty diploma folder; they will mail her diploma in 4 to 6 weeks!
And with her happy little brothers, one of whom is wearing a hat she bought him:And with her proud but oxygen deprived Daddy:And with her proud Mom (who was not looking her very best that day)Next year, she's headed to law school. She's choosing between 2 law schools, both of which have offered her substantial scholarships. Her brothers think it'll be great to have a lawyer in the family.

Up next: photos of Wyoming in general. Then a tour of the sculpture we saw there (in keeping with our Calvert School Art History course). And, finally, a visit to the Terry Bison Ranch. Stay tuned for our next installment!