Monday, June 30, 2008

Mocha Roll

I'm not all that great a cook. If you want great, you need to go visit Peter. But sometimes, I surprise myself. When flipping through my 1950s era McCalls cookbook a few nights back, I found recipes for jelly rolls, which I've never felt the great impulse to make. And yet, when I found the recipe for a mocha roll, I was intrigued. There was only one minor problem: I have no jelly roll pan. Oh, well, nothing stops me if I want to do something, and last night I had the impulse to do this while Jeffrey and his Dad were trimming our arbor vitae. Look, I could stand outside and fret about those two idiots being on ladders, 2 stories up, waving hedge trimmers in the air, or I could cook. Cooking won. As a bonus, I found something that Paula's little one can eat. Warning: This is very caloric. I believe calories hopped off this and attached themselves firmly to me while I was making it.


6 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
confectioner's sugar

Pan preparation: grease the jelly roll pan, and then line it with waxed paper. Preheat oven to 375F.

Whip the egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff. Set aside. Using the same beaters, whip the egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and lemon colored. Add the cocoa powder and extracts and beat into the egg yolks until well combined. Fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites until just combined, then coax into the jelly roll pan. Bake 12 to 14 mi
nutes, or just until the surface springs back when gently pressed with fingertip.

Run a thin metal spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen the roll. Sprinkle the top with confectioner's sugar. Place a towel on top of the pan, followed by a rack, and invert the whole thing. The cake will fall out of the pan. Remove the pan, and carefully peel off the waxed paper. Gently roll the cake up inside the towel the long way, so it is a 15" long log. Let it cool on the rack for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Mocha Cream Filling:

1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. instant coffee
1 tsp. vanilla extract.

Let the coffee and cocoa powder sit in the cream for a few mi
nutes to dissolve. Whip the cream with all ingredients added.

Unroll the cake. Spread with 3/4 of the mocha cream filling, and roll the cake back up, in the same direction as it was rolled to cool. I left the cake on the towel, and used the towel to roll it back up; it made it so much easier! Place on a serving platter, frost with the remaining filling, and put in the fridge for at least an hour. Slice with a sharp serrated knife to serve.

As I mentioned, I don't have a jelly roll pan, so I used an 11x17 baking sheet. So my cake is thinner than it should have been. Also, I multiplied the filling recipe by 1.5, but I've given it to you in its original format, so you can decide what to do with it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ramblings from Home

In case anyone wondered, Jeffrey found the source of the rain in our basement. There was a small hole in the rock foundation (which was built for the first house here, sometime around the Civil War), and when it rained too hard and the drywell at the bottom of the downspout filled up, it overflowed into the basement. So he dug out about 20 lineal feet of the foundation, about 18" deep, put an inch of hydraulic cement on it, and filled it back in. He has reassembled the basement ceilling, and all is right in that corner of my world. Jeff also commented that it's remarkable that the coal chute wasn't leaking, but he cemented around that better, just in case. Yeah, we have a coal chute. No, we don't use it. Do I look like the kind of girl who would shovel stuff into her furnace?

I am amazed that we've been here just about 19 years (the closing was 19 years ago Tuesday, actually). I never lived anywhere more than 3 years growing up, and often less than 1 year. Not because my father got job transfers, but because he was usually bored, quit a job, moved, and hoped to find another. So I had no idea that living in a house for qu
ite a while would put memories in every corner. This juniper is one memory. This was planted at one end of the garage our first full summer here, and a blue spruce at the other. The blue spruce is marvelous, skyrocket junipers, not so much. We have a terrace beside the garage, with a stone retaining wall. I also have a rodent-phobic husband (which suits me fine). So, a few years back, he was looking out a window, and thought he saw movement at the bottom of the juniper. He went upstairs, got a hunting rifle and some birdshot shells, loaded the rifle, and hollered for the boys, then 15, 14, 13 and 11. They arrived, and he barked at them, "Follow me outside." Our second son, years later, admitted that he thought he'd been mouthy to me one too many times, and now he was in big trouble. Anyway, my dearly beloved stood squarely in front of the bush, lined 2 boys up on either side of him, half a step back, in a semi circle, ordered them to watch the bush, and shot at the base of it. He then explained that he thought he saw a rat in the bush, and didn't want such a disgusting thing anywhere near the house. So "The day Dad shot the bush" is now folklore.

Anyway, last year, for some unknown reason, one of my daughters (she was MINE that day, hubby explained, not OURS), decided to scalp one side of the skyrocket juniper. Needless to say, it never grew back. So when Jeffrey was off getting planting supplies from one of the "big box" stores, he saw an Alberta Dwarf Spruce marked down to $25, because its bottom branches were thin. (Full priced ones were $100.) So Jeff brought it home, and announced it was Albert, A Dwarf. Albert ended up replacing the scalped skyrocket juniper this weekend, and the story of the bush Dad shot may fade. And, lest anyone fret, at the time, there was no other house within 1/4 mile of ours, and we've taught all of our children to shoot. One is in less danger from an item known and understood than from one forbidden, and therefore, likely more alluring.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Strawberry Sour Cream Bread

All of my strawberries are gone. Well, sort of. I froze about 30 pounds of them (3 baskets), laying them carefully in single layers on waxed paper on cookie sheets, then using the waxed paper to pour them into ziploc freezer bags. The girls boo-hooed about it when I started the day we got the strawberries, but since everyone except me was sort of berried-out by Friday, it's good that I started then. Plus, I now have 24 beautiful freezer bags of these lovely, red gems.

Anyway, last night, I decided to move some of the somewhat overripe strawberries into use. To that end, Kevin was very handy. On his blog, I found this recipe, which I present without further ado.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
2 cups strawberries, cut in half (fresh or frozen work fine)

Cream butter with sugar until light; add the eggs one at a time, combining well after each addition, and beat in the vanilla.

Sift together the flour, powder, soda, salt & cinnamon. Beat half into the butter mixture, then beat in the sour cream, followed by the balance of the flour mixture. Batter will be creamy, more the texture of pound cake than of nut bread. Stir in the nuts, then gently stir in the strawberries. Turn into a greased and floured 9"x5" loaf pan, and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 60 to 70 minutes. Makes one delectable loaf.
Mine must have lasted a good 12 to 14 minutes (and only 6 people were home at the time). This was so moist we could have eaten it with a spoon. If only it had lasted longer.....I think the girls and little boys need to go back to the strawberry farm tomorrow or Monday....

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fiesta Chicken

Turns out you can't live on strawberries alone. After a pound or so of the marvelous little tidbits, you really crave some meat! So, dinner proceeded on schedule, after all.

I found this recipe some time, I don't know where, and cut it out, and pasted it in a 2 ring binder cookbook I have. I don't even know what it was called, because I didn't cut out the title. Nonetheless, it is now and forever Fiesta Chicken, because when Ryan saw it, he exclaimed, "This looks like a fiesta on a plate!"

4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast & thighs, cut into uniform sized pieces
1 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
1 onion, minced
12 oz can diced tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, diced

Spread the chicken in a greased baking pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and spread the onion over the top. Pour the tomatoes evenly over all; cover and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.


Pour the pan juices into a saucepan. Whisk 1/4 cup cold water wtih /14 cup cornstarch and whisk into the juices. Add 1 leek, sliced thinly, and cook until thickened
. Whisk in 1/2 cup sour cream until just blended, spoon some of the sauce, especially the leeks, over the chicken in its pan, and return to the oven for 10 minutes, uncovered. Keep the balance of the sauce warm, and pass it in a gravy boat with dinner. Serve with pasta mixed with diced tomatoes, chopped parsley, pepper and 1/2 cup milk, and with a green veggie. Serves 8 to 10.


Watching over "his" boys. Need I say more?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I got my $65 Worth

.....of strawberries, of course!

I was drooling over Pam's strawberries a couple of days ago, and envious of Paula's kids going picking strawberries (and eating them all). Then, today, in the food section of our local paper, what should appear but an article about a local strawberry field? What to do? Of Course! The girls are often whining that they're bored, and the little boys may be bored also, so send them! And Jeffrey, too, for good measure! With five giant baskets!
Well, I got 50 pounds of strawberries. Yep, 50 pounds. Don't drool on your monitor, now. I'm off to eat myself silly.....tonight's dinner may be cancelled due to lack of interest.....

Lemon Sponge Cake

Heard around midnight last night: "There's a problem with this cake."
"Yes, dear, what's that?"
"It's too small."

My dearly beloved loves sponge cake. And he loves lemon. So this was a perfect fit for him. The kids liked it, but of the half that remained when they went to bed, almost nothing remained at midnight. Thus, the cake was too small.


6 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon extract

6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon peel

1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp baking powder

Beat the egg whites until foamy; add 1/2 cup sugar and lemon extract and beat until stiff. Set aside.

Beat together egg yolks and 1 cup sugar until thickened and lighter in color. Add lemon juice and peel. Beat until combined.

Sift together dry ingredients. Beat into egg yolk mixture. Fold in egg whites. Smooth into greased tube or bundt pan, and bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then invert on a serving plate and let cool thoroughly (the cake will fall out when it's ready). Top with sifted confectioner's sugar and serve. 12 to 16 slices, depending upon the size of each slice.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Family Pleaser Light Bread

This is adapted from a recipe I found in a cookbook published in the 1950s. I could not, for the life of me, figure out why this would be "light" bread, given the recipe list. And, jeez, I cut the sugar in half on this recipe and it is still not diet food! But the entire 2 pounds disappeared in one meal, so it must have been a "family pleaser" indeed.


1 cup milk, warmed to about 100 degrees

6 tbsp. yeast
4 cups flour
1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt

Add the ingredients to the bowl or bread machine pan in the order listed. Mix on the dough or pasta setting on the bread machine, or with a mixer for about 15 minutes. Let the dough sit for about 15 minutes, then split into 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Let rise for 20 to 30 minutes, or until doubled in size, then bake at 350 for 25 to 27 minutes, depending upon the darkness of crust desired. This is somewhat hard to cut when the loaf is hot, but my 8 year old said, "This is really good bread!" Coming from that child, it's high praise indeed.
And, this is my 200th post. I'd never have believed I'd write this much.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pork Butt

Oh, the title possibilities here: "Rubbed Butt"? Or, as my kids term it, having seen this unfortunate label on a piece of meat in the supermarket some years ago, "Butt Whole"? Anyway....last week it was pretty chilly here. We're talking high of 58 from Monday through Thursday sort of chilly. Paula posted about her ribs, and, since I had the "butt whole" out of the freezer, I thought, "Well, why not adapt?" So adapt I did.


1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. mustard powder
ground black pepper

Mix all the seasonings together in a bowl. Smash into all sides of the meat. Put it in a roasting pan, let it sit for a while, then put it in the oven at 325 for about 30 minutes per pound (mine took 6 hours - and it was boneless). Ladle the fat off the pan drippings, and add 1/2 cup water. To this, whisk in 1 cup cold water whisked with 2 tbsp. cornstarch; cook until the gravy thickens and turns clear. Serve with "Heart Attack Potatoes":

Wash, slice and boil 4 to 5 pounds red skinned potatoes (leave skin on) until tender. Drain in a colander. In the same pan, melt one stick butter and one stick margarine. Grind in a bunch of black pepper, and add chopped fresh or dried parsley - about 1/4 cup. Stir in the potatoes and serve. "Heart attack goodness on a plate!" according to one of my daughters, hence the name.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pasta Florentine

Well, I don't really know if this is Pasta Florentine or not. What I do know is that if you serve your chicken or fish stuffed with spinach, it becomes "______ Florentine". So, maybe this is an invented title for something you already cook. I've never seen nor had it, but the ingredients were on hand, and it was very easy!


1-1/2 pounds mini penne
1/2 pound frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup parmesan
1 stick butter
fresh ground pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream

Cook the penne according to package directions. Pour into the colander to drain, and put the pot lid on top of it to keep it hot. In the same pot, melt the butter, and grind in a generous amount of pepper. Stir in the spinach and tomatoes, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until hot. Add the garlic powder, then stir the penne back in and add the parmesan; stir in cream until it's smooth and creamy.. Serve immediately. Side dish for 8 people (two of whom are large, voracious 20-something men). Not good for those of us on a perpetual diet, but really good, nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Beef With Snow Peas and Water Chestnuts

On a cold June evening (50 degrees), it was time to fire up the broiler for another round of "Steak is Boring!" This was really good; poor Thor didn't get any leftovers.


3 lbs. steak, cut into 1/2" wide strips
2 bags frozen snow peas, thawed
2 cans water chestnuts
3 green onions, chopped
olive oil
ground ginger
garlic powder
freshly ground pepper

Preheat the broiler. Drizzle olive oil into the bottom of the broiler pan, then arrange the beef strips in it. Sprinkle with ginger
, garlic powder and pepper; broil for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip, season the other side, and broil for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the beef from the broiler pan to a platter. On the stovetop, whisk 1 tbsp. cornstarch into the pan drippings, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the drippings thicken. A bit of water should be added if necessary to help loosen the browned bits on the pan. Return the beef to the pan, spread the vegetables in with the beef, stir to coat with the sauce, and broil for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the vegetables are heated through and tender-crisp. Serve with rice or buttered pasta..

Owning an Old House is Not For the Faint of Heart

This afternoon, I wanted a can of black spray paint for some touchup work on a wrought iron rail, so off to the basement I trotted, leaving my dearly beloved blissfully sitting in the kitchen, contemplating the Wall Street Journal.

From the basement: "Um, honey, could you come here? And you had
better bring Jeffrey."

It was raining. From the ceiling. 5 feet in from the foundation. (In
sert appropriate expletive here). Jeff got his favorite tool, the 10 pound sledgehammer, and attacked the ceiling. The parents went upstairs and disassembled the corner of the front room, then took apart the central air ductwork from upstairs. Well, my house is a Norman Chateau, and the first floor is only about 8" off the ground. Turns out that an arbor vitae's roots are growing over the foundation into my basement. Crap! Fortunately, the sill on which the framing rests is a massive piece of oak, so Jeffrey has employment for a while. He'll be digging up the shrub bed near the foundation at the front of the house, scrubbing it, and stuccoing it with waterproof cement, followed by a coating of white stucco. Well, he learned some masonry during high school, and claims to like it, so here's his chance to practice.

Well, this is the mess in my basement ceiling:
Yes, that is a stone foundation, as in rocks. It's left over from the first house at this location, built around the Civil War.

But, as you can see, 1928 construction methods were quite solid. This is the underside of my sub flooring: maple flooring laid at an angle, with tongue and groove sides. If you look real hard, you can see the tree roots coming in at the far side of the photo.

And, I comfort myself that this is easy by comparison to the mess along the mighty Mississippi. I remember the floods in 1993; we hurried to get back east of the river, and they closed the bridge at St. Louis less than 2 hours after I crossed it. The water was so wide and so close to the decking as I drove across that it was scary, and I don't scare easily. I hope for the best for those people in flooded areas this time around.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Around the Yard

More things are blooming this week.

Like my Korean Dogwoods.
And roses.And Peonies.And, Paula was laughing at her mini van yesterday, which caused me to remember what I drove from 1995 to 2003. No one ever called this baby "mini".This was the year all 4 big boys went to Boy Scout Camp. The leaders ribbed me hard about driving the bus out to the country. The boys always referred my parking it as "docking the aircraft carrier". Yes, it's a 15 passenger Ford Club Wagon! (You know your van is seriously large when the doorpost carries a conspicuous warning sticker to the effect that this vehicle is not equipped with the Ford Ambulance Package.) But the funniest thing that happened with that van was when we took our first son to college in South Carolina. The college had told me that all parcels had to be shipped to their post office, and that they would be open until 6PM on move in Saturday. So, in the Aircraft Carrier, I was winding through the traffic in campus toward the post office, and was stopped by a rent-a-cop. Not one to be bullied, when he told me I couldn't drive down there if my son wasn't in one of 3 dorms, I told him I was going to get 10 boxes from the post office. His response was, in essence, tough nuts, lady, they never opened today; turn this thing around. To which I said, " Fine. Stop traffic in all directions and get me a 60 foot circle." They literally had to stop traffic at the 4 way intersection about 200 feet down the road, and have 4 rent-a-cops directing me to back up and turn around. My son was mortified, but hubby and I laughed for hours.

So, Paula, relatively speaking, your mini-van is a hot little automotive number.

Monday, June 16, 2008

High School Graduation #7

Kellie graduated from high school Friday night. It's very strange to have my oldest 7 all out of high school; I'm not at all certain I will like this small family arrangement! Well, at least she's going to the same university as one of her sisters and one of her brothers, so I won't worry too much (HA!) when they're driving back and forth.

I had to take a picture of this kid. Everyone is dressed up, and here's this kid in bright red pants and gold high top sneakers. Hope he's got that kind of gut
s when he gets out in the real world. At least he made me laugh!I bought Kellie a beautiful yellow dress which she really, really wanted 2 Sundays ago at the mall (yes, Paula, I left the compound twice in 2 weeks!). Then we raced over to the fabric store and I got yellow so I could sort of match her; I sewed my dress the weekend before graduation.And, of course, what celebration would be complete without Thor in the pictures?I hope everyone's weekend was happy!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wearing What I Sew

Gaylen asked me if I was going to participate in this. Well, since she gamely participated in the "Meme" tag, I tried to take pictures of me every day. I missed one or 2.

It was hot here all week, so I wore summer clothing all week. Three things to remember when viewing my wardrobe: first, I have not purchased a garment for myself (except undergarments and shoes) sin
ce 2002. Second, I work from home, so I wear what's comfortable. Finally, hubby works from home, too, and he likes me in short skirts. So all of my skirts are short. Whatever makes him happy is fine with me!

Monday, turquoise cotton knit tank top
and a-line skirt in navy with a little white pattern.

Tuesday, Cassandra's birthday, pink floral sundress which I made for Shannon's graduation, and then discove
red that it was snowing in Laramie. In May. I'm still not over that!

Wednesday, fuschia cotton knit tank top and ivory rayon a-line skirt.

Thursday's picture is lost, but it was a yellow and blue full circle skirt with one of my memorial day tops (the one with the little fluffy sleeves). Don't ask how one loses an electronic photo. It's another of life's great mysteries.

Friday, yello
w sundress made for Kellie's graduation (photos to follow, probably tomorrow).

Saturday, I had a scr
eaming headache and chills all day long! So I wore a maroon knit long sleeved dress. I'm decapitated for unknown reason, probably because my hair was bad or my eyes were going in 3 different directions.

Today is a pink tee with pink skirt, but the kids are out with my camera. Sorry, no photo this time.

All of these clothes came out of my sewing machine. I didn't realize just how rare people who sew are until the little boys next door were here one day, and the younger one spotted me at the sewing machine. He watched me for a while, and then asked, "Is that a shirt?" I responded affirmatively. What was I doing with it? I'm sewing it. To which he queried, "Why? What was wrong with it?" Ah, I love little kids. You never know what's coming from them next.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Turkey with Walnut Parmesan Sauce

We eat a lot of turkey in my household. Everyone likes poultry, and I can always get it. It's always easy to think up new ways to flavor poultry, also, since you start with a mild meat flavor. I was really excited when I found this recipe. You can use either turkey cutlets or slices from a raw turkey breast, which is what I did. While I cooked this in the broiler, for someone who isn't cooking for nearly one half ton of men (four between 205 and 235 - you do the math), it would work fine in a skillet. For me, I could have spent a couple of hours standing over the skillet; that isn't my idea of a great time.

About 1-1/2 pounds turkey - 4 cutlets (I used 5 pounds, and multiplied this recipe a LOT)
1 tbsp. cooking oil
fresh ground pepper

1/4 cup walnuts
2 tbsp. butter
1 chopped onion
2 minced cloves garlic

1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch cayenne
1-1/2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp lemon juice

1-1/2 tbsp. grated Parmesan
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tbsp. chopped walnuts, optional

To cook the turkey under the broiler:

Pour the cooking oil in the bottom of the broiler pan, with the rack off the top; make sure it covers the bottom of the pan. Arrange the turkey slices in the bottom of the pan, grind fresh pepper over them, and broil with the shelf in the highest position and the d
oor open for about 4 to 5 minutes per side, turning once and peppering the other side of the turkey. Paula, I wish I had taken a picture of this "work in progress", but, of course, I didn't think of it until hours later. Incidentally, Paula, most stoves come with the broiler pan, but if you can't find yours, you can use a metal pan that's about 2" deep for broiling food like this. And this describes the broiler in an electric stove; the broiler in a gas stove is the bottom drawer, and you don't leave that open. (I'm not much good with gas stoves, having only lived with one for about 3 years.)

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce:

Grind the 1/4 cup walnuts to a fine powder in the food processor. In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook until translucent, not browning it. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Stir in the cloves, cinamon, cayenne and cornstarch; whisk until smooth, then whisk in the chicken broth. Simmer until it thickens, about 3 minutes, and add the ground walnuts; cook a minute longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, parmesan and parsley. Pour some of the sauce over the serving platter and top with chopped walnuts, if desired. Pass the remaining sauce. I served this with parsleyed new potatoes, but white rice would work equally well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Daughter's Birthday!

My daughter Cassandra turned 19 yesterday. She was the most beautiful newborn the nurses in that hospital had ever seen, or so they said; of course, I believed it. She's always been a sunny person, and the only one in this household who doesn't turn shocking pink in the sun. I've missed her terribly while she was away at college this year (to be fair, I've missed all of them).

Birthday cakes get decorated with things the kids like, not necess
arily birthday themes. Thus, my oldest daughter put the pirates on Ryan's cake. Cass' younger sister wanted me to put a lion on the cake for Cass, so, naturally, I drew a lion sniffing a flower. Please don't mistake me for an artist (not that anyone would). She made her older brother Jeff carry her to her family party, and had a great time goofing around with everyone.
The funniest thing about her birthday was the apron. Yes, apron. The girls clean the kitchen and breakfast room for me when they're home, and the night before her birthday, Cass was complaining that my Clorox Clean Up "blows back" and left tiny spots on her dark blue tank top; thus, she was demanding at midnight, on her way to bed, that I get her an apron Immediately! Clever Mom found the Burda pattern site, and downloaded an apron pattern. It was very easy; even with my un-called-for contrast trim, it still only took an hour. I was shocked at how delighted my daughter was. Imagine, a 19 year old girl wanting an apron!It was a great day. And, she says I can use her apron if I want. "Party in the house!" as my darling daughters would say.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I can't believe I was tagged by A for a meme. No one really wants to know this much about me, do they? Well, here goes:

1. What was I doing five years ago?
-Same as today. Happy to have my eldest son returning for his first summer home from college. Preparing to send my second son off to college. Every day in my world is the same; just the seasons and weather change. And I like it that way.

2. Five things I must do today (or have done, since the day is dwindling):
-Standard work stuff
-Standard cooking/cleaning stuff
-Make an apron for my daughter's birthday; she announced she wanted one yesterday.
-Frost the cake for my daughter's birthday (I baked the cake late last night).
-Wrap her presents, probably with help from her sister

4. Five snacks I enjoy:
-chocolate. Excellent quality, lovely chocolate. Not chocolate flavored stuff. Chocolate.
-Dried apricots
-Potato chips. Non-rippled, thin, plain, salty chips.
-Pound cake. Love the stuff. Rarely make it for that reason.

Usually, however, if I want a snack, I grab a slice of my bread, top it with tomato, cheese, and any meat in the fridge, microwave for 15 to 20 seconds, and, voila! Lunch!

4. Five things I'd do if I were a billionaire:
Same things I do now? This is a difficult question, because I believe no one appreciates things they don't earn, so I would not give more to my kids. I figure, by the time I kick the bucket, it won't matter what I leave them, because they'll be too old for me to ruin their lives. Maybe I'd try to get a job interview with Warren Buffett for my oldest son (Warren & J.D.Rockefeller were his middle school heroes. Honest. Odd kid.)
Plus, I still can't see myself dropping 500K for a new Rolls Phantom V-12.
But I wouldn't want it at all if I thought it might cause even the tiniest bit of friction between my dearly beloved husband and me. He's worth more than anything to me.

5. Five bad habits:
My kids call it OCD. I call it perfectionism (HA!). It's the root of everything about me that drives people nuts.
I shake out my car mats at the entrance to the driveway before I drive into the garage. I don't want dirt in my car.
I lock all doors except the mudroom so the kids and dog won't drag dirt in through 3 doors instead of one.
(These 2 items don't mean my house is "Mr. Clean" Spotless. It's just normal. But the more dirt I don't let in, the less housecleaning I must do - Hooray!)
I have a hard time believing that there's anything I can't do if I try hard enough, so I chew out my loved ones if they "quit". Plus, I'm sometimes accused of beating a dead horse. Sometimes, my sons will show up and rescue me from myself by offerring their great strength.
In my house, there are 2 ways to do things: my way and the wrong way. Luckily, I remember that if I am on someone else's turf, I don't set the rules - even if I'm right. (LOL)
I never forget (good or bad). Like an elephant.

6. Five places I've lived:
-Too many places to itemize as a kid (before I left my parents at 16).
-Danbury, CT
-Middlebury, CT
-Knoxville, TN

7. Five jobs I've had:
-I worked as a ticket seller and concession stand salesgirl while in high school.
-Secretary for a builder of prefab steel buildings while in college
-Mechanical engineer
-I'd like to make up something glamorous that I'd done, but Mom/chef/housekeeper/chauffer is as exotic as it gets in my little world.

Now I'm supposed to tag people: Paula (welcome to the blogosphere!), Pam (enjoying her summer), and Gaylen, who is lucky enough to be loved by four dogs. Now that you've all snoozed through the story of my life, on to more interesting people!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sunday Power Outage, or Dogs Need Electricity!

Sunday afternoon, one of my sons left to return to college for the summer session. He's changed majors about 3 times, taken time off from college, etc., and finally decided - on Thursday, yet - that he's changing majors once more. So, he had Mom the course counselor figure out what he needed to graduate, and then proceeded to register on Friday for the classes that started today! Naturally, this meant that Sunday he was driving back to college. First, he cleaned out his room, and sent this to me with the message that he's ever timely:He called me on Valentine's Day this year, laughing, and told me that he had a valentine for me. When I expressed puzzlement, he explained that there had been a table set up in the Student Union for students to make valentines, and there were plenty of girls there. Thus, being a normal, red-blooded American male, he went to join in. There was evidently a large chorus of "Awww, how sweet!" when he explained to these girls that he was making a valentine for his mother, who always sends him a box of chocolates. (They must have liked it, because he left with several new phone numbers). Having just found my valentine among his possessions, he was delivering it in his normal timely fashion. Well, I liked it, anyway.

Then, around 6PM, a line of thunderstorms went through, which caused Thor to try to hide under the kitchen table - I know, that works real well with a 265 pound dog. After the storm was over, our power went out. For over 4 hours. I was not pleased. Nor was poor Thor. The kids thought it was swell. Because my windows all have heavy draperies on them, it was quite dark inside. Dark makes for great games of "Hide and Seek", so Thor spent a lot of time sitting with the parents, by the light of an oil lamp, whining because his friends were missing. Here's what happened when Mark came to rest for a while:
Evidently, Mark is the most trustworthy of all.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Chicken With Mustard Sauce

This is one of the best chicken recipes I've ever stumbled across. It came from MSN yesterday, and didn't require all that much tweaking to make it work for me. I think it was a hit all around, because I had no leftovers from 5 pounds of chicken; poor Thor had to settle for penne with his Bites & Bones.


5 pounds chicken cutlets, or chicken breast sliced into 1/2" thick pieces
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp vegetable oil

Mix the vinegar, oil and spices together in a bowl; microwave about 30 seconds to allow the sugar and salt to melt when mixed. Dip the chicken in the bowl to coat well, then line up in the bottom of the broiler pan and pour any remaining vinegar mixture over the chicken. Broil about 8 minutes on each side, then turn the oven to 400 and bake for 5 to 8 minutes, while making the mustard sauce. Note that the chicken cutlets can also be made on a grill.


1/4 cup light mayonnaise (I used homemade)
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. wine vinegar
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tsp. sugar
pan drippings (if cooked in broiler pan)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp water/1 tbsp. cornstarch (optional)

Whisk together the mayo, mustard and vinegar. Add the pan drippings, straining out any solids, herbs and sugar, and heat. Whisk in the cream just before serving. If the sauce is too thin, whisk together the water and cornstarch, and mix into the sauce. Spoon some over the chicken and pass the rest.

The serving suggestion called for pumpernickelbread, but I served this with buttered penne, homestead bread and a salad.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thor Wants Breakfast!

With everyone home, a batch of my waffle batter usually lasts up to, say, 2 days. This picture may better explain why.Jeffrey was having breakfast. Of course, if a human eats, the hairy kid must wait patiently to see if it's his turn to eat, too. On Jeff's plate is one waffle, while a second is cooking. Meanwhile, Thor waits patiently; Jeff was tossing him saltines.

This happens often, but the photo was inspired by Gaylen's "Dogs on Thursday" post.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Buy The Extended Warranty

About 7 years ago, my sons begged long and hard enough that their father bought us a small lawn tractor with a 42" deck; he reasoned that we could pay the boys something for mowing this huge lawn of ours, albeit less than we paid the lawn service, and they would learn to budget their time to earn ample money on a fixed price job. Well, we nursed that tractor through 4-1/2 seasons of mowing, and, believe me, we'd have been better off buying a new tractor that last season. So, just over 2 years ago, I bought a new lawn tractor with the 52" deck. Since they offered, I bought the extra year's warranty with the tractor. The only thing they did for that warranty was to replace a belt last year, and we only had them do that because the local store didn't have that belt. So, in early May, they called and offered my husband a 2 year extension of our warranty, which would expire on the 15th. He said, in essence, for under $400, why not? (I'd have been more enthusiastic, myself.)

So, last week, 10 days after the start of the new warranty, the front corner of the deck dropped; the weld holding it to its bracket let go. This is what my tractor looks like now:
The new deck should be here Friday. The first visit by the technician would have cost $182, lord knows what the second would have cost, and the replacement deck is nearly $800.

Learn from M&M: Buy the extended warranty!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Lemons for Dinner

Lemons, to me, scream summertime. Lemonade. Lemon sherbert. Lemon rice and turkey? Why not? I have noticed that lemons will keep very well in the fridge for weeks, so I always get a dozen with my food orders. Last night, instead of the normal, boring turkey breast, I decided to change it up. I very much enjoyed the result, and my youngest chirped that he loves lemons, too - always a plus from a child who cares little for food.


1 Turkey Breast
salt & pepper
to taste
2 lemons
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup cold
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. lemon juice

3 cups rice
6 cups water
6 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup whipping cream

Place the turkey in a greased roasting pan. Zest one lemon, and set aside the zest, then cut that lemon in half and squeeze the juice from it over the turkey. If your turkey is not boneless, stuff the squeezed lemon halves inside the cavity. Add 1 cup water to the bottom of the pan, and place in the oven at 325 for about 18 minutes per pound.

10 minutes before the turkey is done, put the rice, water, salt and lemon juice in a pan. Cover and cook for about 18 minutes. A minute or 2 before the rice is done, add the lemon zest and 1/2 cup whipping cream; let it sit a couple of minutes.

When the turkey is done, remove it to a serving platter, and discard the first lemon Strain any solids out of the pan drippings, and add water to equal 1 cup; heat to a boil. Cut 1/2" off each end of the second lemon, quarter those ends and put in with the pan drippings. Whisk the cold water and cornstarch together, and whisk into the boiling pan drippings. After it thickens, add 1/2 cup whipping cream, and, just before serving, whisk in the 1 tbsp lemon juice. Thinly slice the remainder of the second lemon, and arrange over turkey slices on a serving platter. Spoon a small amount of the cream sauce over the platter, and pass the rest.

I don't care much for plugging products, but a while back I bought a Pampered Chef lemon zester, and I have to say that it's the best item ever for taking the zest off lemons or oranges without any of the bitter white part of the rind. Just look how pretty these zest curls were, sitting in my serving spoon, patiently waiting to get stirred into the rice!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Calvert 3rd Grade Review

Well, the school year is finally over, all of the tests have been taken, sent off for grading, and returned to us. Onward, children! To the summer! Picnics, bike riding, chasing (or being chased by) your dog, climbing trees.....

Here's the summary of Calvert 3rd Grade.

We used 4th grade math. Mark has always been a whiz at math, so he completed 3rd grade math in 2nd grade (after completing 1st & 2nd grade math during 1st grade). The third grade math book was very colorful and kid-friendly, with great instruction in the 4 basic operations, word problems which are quite kid-specific, a little bit on fractions, etc. The textbook is a write-in book, and they supply another workbook for extra practice. All in all, a nice program.

Mark's favorite subject, without a doubt, was Mythology. The Calvert-published text was called Gods of Greece, and the stories were simplified and published with line drawings which the child was invited to color in (although my son didn't). Now, there are people who object to the study of mythology, perhaps feeling that it objectifies false idols. Truth be told, however, the subject is "Mythology", or the study of myths, which are stories which are not true. Many things in our culture have roots in mythology, for instance, Pandora's Box, and now my sons are pretty conversant in the subject.

His second favorite was History. Again, this was a Calvert-written book, containing 52 short biographies about various famous Americans, including a few presidents, Revolutionary-era figures (John Paul Jones, Patrick Henry, etc.), authors, poets, artists. It was a nice look at a wide variety of people in our history.

Mark also loved Smiling Hill Farm. This is also a Calvert-published book. It's a novel in 3 parts, which is the story of a family who leaves Virginia in approximately 1805 to move to Indiana. Some of the descriptions are awe-inspiring, such as the family's somewhat dazed reaction to bright sunlight after having spent days walking through the dense forest of Kentucky. Who knew that it was dark in the woods all day long? They also described flocks of brightly colored parakeets flying through the forest. I never heard of such a thing; turns out they were Carolina Parakeets, native from South Carolina north through Ohio. They are extinct, having been killed as nuisances by farmers. The book describes the building of the homestead, and how it changed over the next 125 years; where the descendants of the original settlers went, etc. I believe that the author must have been a descendant of the family, and must have written down stories that were passed to her by her parents and grandparents. This was the first "school" foray into novels, and Mark loved it. He found the classic reading anthology textbooks at the beginning of the year rather dull; while there were some stories he liked, in all cases, they were much too simple for him. Now, I am certain that he could do 5th grade work right now, but I don't feel Mark has the maturity level to do so. So, while the reading is easy for him, he can always read novels in his spare time.

The science textbook is very nice. It touches upon all aspects of science - plants, animals, physics, chemistry, rocks, etc. I know from experience that each year, the same topics are covered again, but in more depth each year. Mark's not a great fan of Science, but he's decided that next year we should do all of the experiments. I guess I should start ordering "stuff" now, eh?

Geography is taught for about 2/3 of the school year. It doesn't focus on specific locations, rather, the course introduces the "themes of geography" including landforms, human & environment interaction, location, latitude & longitude. Mark found it a bit dull, but this is the child who got a wooden US puzzle at age 2, and could name all the states and point them out by 3. He's challenging, to say the least.

Grammar is touched upon in the course; mostly it's nouns and verbs, complete sentences vs. fragments, using more interesting words (use strolled or raced instead of "I went outside."), etc. Mark is very well spoken, so he didn't even recognize this as a class. Composition is writing a paragraph or so about something, such as "My Favorite Day", "A Good Friend" or similar topics. The first composition is about the child's living environment, and is entitled "A City Child" (or country, suburban, or, I suppose, even "A Boat Child"). They also teach letter writing, business and personal. Calvert recently switched to a regular spelling curriculum, but I liked their original spelling better, and still use the CDs for the boys, in addition to being sure they know how to spell the assigned words. Frankly, I don't think 10 age-appropriate words per day, 4 days per week, is too many, but evidently, some people did.

In addition to all that, Calvert sends an unassigned book entitled "Tales from Far & Near/Tales of Long Ago" which retells many excellent stories, including Romulus & Remus, Napoleon, and King Canute holding back the tide.

The best thing about Calvert is that it comes with nearly-scripted lesson manuals. After the child reads his assignment, ask him these specific questions. I can usually think of others based upon the kid's answers, but I really need someone to tell me what to do. Additionally, for a fee, you can send 8 tests per year to a Calvert teacher to be graded, and Calvert will provide an actual transcript should you need it for any reason. As if this isn't enough, the course comes with all of the paper, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, ruler, etc. that the child needs. All of this was good enough for me. My feeling was that if I needed more material for the boys, at least this way I have a splendid basis for their educations through the eighth grade.

Calvert School 6th Grade Review

Calvert's 6th grade was a challenging curriculum!

Ryan hates math, but he did very well at it. The book is colorful and nicely done. With each concept, the book tells a little story, and tells how to work the solution (for perimeter, as an example, they might say that Mr. Jones needs to buy fencing to keep bunnies out of his garden.....) They then have several "Try These" problems which the child is supposed to work under parental supervision, and, finally, a page of problems. At the bottom of each page is a mixed review consisting of maybe 5 problems. This book was hardbound, but they also provide a practice workbook for the child to write in. Since Ryan doesn't care for math, I rarely have him copy problems out of the hardcovered book, preferring to let him write in the workbook (we must always choose our battles, after all!). At the beginning of the course, they have 10 or so review lessons, in which they advise the parent to have the child do a couple of problems on supplemental page so-and-so, and if he remembers the topic, go on. If not, review on these pages before beginning the course. I find that to be a very thoughtful addition to the curriculum.

Science is probably the favorite subject of this son of mine. This book was well written, containing the same subjects as he's covered in previous years, but in ever increasing detail. Topics included plants, simple machines and other physics topics, earth, astronomy, rocks, and biology including genetics. (At the time when Ryan was supposed to make a chart showing all the different hair, eye and skin tones in his family, he was only able to list one brunette and one blonde. Solid light eyes and skin tone. He bellowed at me that we were Boring!)

History this year covered Mesopotamia through the fall of Rome. He very much enjoyed it. I feel boring saying that this was another nicely done book, but in my experience, Calvert chooses excellent textbooks. Geography sort of followed History, focusing on Africa, the Middle and Far East and Australia (Poor Antarctica only got one lesson, but I guess it's pretty remarkable that a continent known only for penguins got any real coverage!) Because of this course, Ryan was able to make intelligent comments about the elections in Zimbabwe and the natural disasters in Myanmar and China. Primarily, his comments were common sense, such as "Why do those people in Myanmar not just tell their government to get out of town?" but at least he has a basis of knowledge on which to draw for such comments.

Grammar was a groaner. Sentence diagramming is not an 11 year old boy's idea of a good time. I do think it gave him a better picture of sentence structure, however, and that's a plus. Composition was also well done, giving several lessons for each comp., and expecting much more sophisticated work than in 5th grade. Both courses were taught using the Elements of Language book; I am pleased that Calvert continues using this series in 7th and 8th grades. Spelling is a workbook published by another company, and I feel that it's busywork. I have the original Calvert spelling CDs, which introduced 10 words the first 4 days, then a review the fifth day. I don't think that's too much for a child to learn to spell. Often, they are related words, such as money, dollar, cent, interest, finance, and I find the course to make sense. That is my single great disappointment with the Calvert curriculum - the change in their spelling course.

Art History focused on sculpture this year, and was a clear winner. As I mentioned on my posts about Wyoming, Ryan really took to the subject (during that trip, he pointed out that Ben Franklin wasn't wearing pants, and then proceeded to instruct us as to who was the first sculptor to successfully sculpt a subject in pants, as opposed to breeches or a toga). He learned a bit about everything from ancient Egyptian cups and scarabs to modern sculpture, which he dubbed mostly stupid. Can't say I disagree; no fascination with bent metal pieces resides in this Mom.

Reading is a perennial pastime hereabouts, and, accordingly, a favored subject. This year's reading course covered a number of classical novels and 3 poets: Emily Dickenson, who was pronounced old, stuffy and girly; Langston Hughes, who wrote pretty well, but not on subjects to which my boy could really relate, and Robert Frost, the absolute favorite, who wrote about nature in New England. Almost all fo the novels read were classics, with the exception being The Phantom Tollbooth, a relative newcomer from some time in the 1970s. Ryan has read that book before, but greatly enjoyed it nonetheless. The other novels included Anne of Green Gables ("Too girly!"), The Swiss Family Robinson, Theras and His Town, a 1924 Caldecott Medal winner which was pronounced excellent, and King Arthur and His Knights, which was adapted from The Once and Future King, which had been adapted from Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur. Ryan had read The Once and Future King, but enjoyed King Arthur nonetheless, and had read a children's version of Swiss Family, which dimmed his enthusiasm not one bit. I like the concept of children above 3rd grade reading from novels, instead of anthologies. Especially in this day and age of computer games and gaming stations (none of which reside in my house, and never have), I feel that novels help develop a child's attention span and imagination. My husband's late aunt, a teaching nun from 1928 until her death in 1985, told me on more than one occasion that she had noticed a marked disimprovement in children's attention spans after the advent of child-centric TV, starting with Sesame Street and continuing from there, but no great improvement in their bases of knowledge from generations earlier, when their mothers had simply read to them and taught them their ABCs in singsong fashion. This is the basis for my resistance to electronic entertainment, and I have never regretted it. Sure, a review of a reading course becomes a diatribe against a culture of electronic entertainment. Sorry!

Again, the Calvert course came with all the paper we needed, as well as various school supplies including ruler, protractor and compass. Stack the Lesson Manuals on top of that, and this curriculum was terrific! Of course, different people want to teach different things, foreign languages or art, for example, but with this course taking only about 4 to 5 hours per day, there's plenty of time for add-ons. No homework, and the child has plenty of time for just being a kid, too!

And now, summer-bound!