Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekend Cat Blogging!

Thor is honored. Pam at Sidewalk Shoes and her beautiful cats Smudge, Patchouli and Coco are hosting Weekend Cat Blogging this week. Go visit them! Thor will wait.

Notice that they invited Thor to join in? Thor was thrilled. In keeping with the theme of Smudge, Patchouli and Coco waiting, Thor is waiting, too. We got our food order today, and Thor was watching Dan put away the steaks, waiting for his share.

Happy Weekend, everyone, from an honorary cat (or friend of cats).

Book Review!

Here's a much more recent book for you. Some of you may have seen this movie a few years back; I liked the movie. So when I discovered this book among the hundreds I bought last fall, I was very pleased.

by Tracy Chevalier
Copyright 1999

Delft, 1664. 16 year old Griet's family in in financial ruin following the explosion of a kiln which blinded her father. The family's savings has been spent to apprentice her younger brother to the tile factory where her father had been an artisan, and Griet is sent to work as a maid Vermeer, the famed painter, a position which her father obtained for her through his artisans' guild. The story winds through several years during which Griet lives with and works for the Vermeer family, eventually being used by the painter not only to clean his studio without disturbing anything, but also to assist him in mixing his paints. The book takes a beautiful painting and creates a story behind it. There's a great deal of detail about life in the 1660s contained within this story; it captured my imagination even more than the movie did. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction would like this book.

Hope you all have a great weekend! Anyone have any exciting plans?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thor Attends a Birthday Party

I know you all wanted to know how Thor celebrated Kellie's birthday. Here's the rest of the great celebration.

Cass told her boyfriend he was required to come up from Delaware for Kellie's birthday. He's a nice guy; he complied. Here, Thor supervises Cass and the boyfriend as they supervise Shannon decorating the cake. (That was complex!)

And, of course, Thor spent plenty of time sitting with his girls. He wanted wrapping paper, of course, but was not allowed to have any. Then he wanted cake, and the softies gave him cookies.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Orange Fish

After the rain Monday night, it was cool enough to use the oven for dinner. I wanted fish, and this was the result.

Fair Warning: This is a very typical Marjie recipe. I usually think about them more carefully to come up with measurements and whatnot, but this one just didn't lend itself to such contemplation.

Every time I buy oranges, I take the orange part off the peel with a great Pampered Chef "Zester", put the peel in a glass dish, and freeze it. That was the inspiration for my fish. Here goes - a classic non-specific recipe!


1 pound of white fish (or whatever amount you need)
Salt - about 1/4 tsp
Fresh or Frozen orange zest
Butter - 2 to 3 tbsp

Spray your pan to prevent sticking. Put your fish filet in the pan. Sprinkle a tiny amount of salt over the fish. Spread copious amounts of orange zest over the fish. Line up pats of butter over the orange zest. Bake at 400F until the fish is done (mine took about 12 minutes). Serve over rice with a salad and a nice green veggie.

Only one picture - sorry! It was just one of those days!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Garden Tuesday: Spirea

Ever spent 3 hours on the phone trying to figure out how the telephone company can be telling you they're going to institute a 40% discount on your business phone bill, which will knock the bill down from $400 to $375 per month? Must be that new math thing. And, man, does my head hurt!

So I took a walk outside during breaks between the thunderstorms to look at my spirea. Do you have any?
About 15 years ago, I went to a garden center to buy 20 junipers. The old lady there, after I had loaded the juniper in my Suburban, suddenly came running over with these 2 scraggly plants that were about the size of basketballs, and told me to plant them in the sun so they would put some color near my house.

I cut them back mercilessly every fall. And she was right. The color is great, and they flower more than once per summer.

If you click on this photo to biggify, you'll see the flowers at about life sized. They're tiny, and pretty strong!

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone! Hope you all get a little of the cooling that my thunderstorms have given me for the past 2 days!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Another Birthday...

Just about everyone was home for Kellie's birthday. It was a proper birthday party house around here, indeed. Saturday, they piled into two cars to go see the new Harry Potter movie (I'd have chosen Pooh, myself). That was the inspiration for Shannon to decorate the cake:

Yes, those are Harry Potter Penguins. She's a much better artist than I am.

My 2 most recent birthday girls decided to try to squish Mom. Mom was elated. I have no idea why the flash didn't go off, so we're all a little blurry here.

And while Thor got to look at the cake, he didn't get any. He got plenty of cookies, however, which is just as good in his mind.

(And Ning Ning the mouse didn't come home. Seems he needed to spend the weekend studying for his summer class. Good thing Kellie has him to keep her on track with her studies!)

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Mouse's Birthday

See this beautiful baby, chewing on the foot of the Puffalump mouse?

Well, a year or so after this picture was taken, we learned that the mouse's name is Ning Ning. Great name for a blue eyed mouse, right? Anyway, he's been hauled around everywhere, had many baths, been forced to eat stuffing while that baby was not home, and been a faithful, loyal friend.

Today the baby is 21 years old. And so we celebrate Ning Ning the mouse's birthday at the same time.

Poor Ning Ning has been so well loved that about a decade ago, I had to make him a new "suit", by cutting up one of Dad's worn out Oxford cloth dress shirts. Well, at Easter I learned that Ning Ning's suit was also worn out. So, for Ning Ning's birthday, he's getting a new suit.

Of course, Ning Ning and his girl are taking a summer class in West Virginia, so he's not here to try on his new suit. But I think he'll be thrilled when they get here tonight, don't you?

Have a nice weekend, everyone. Try to stay cool!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Many Faces of Thor

A few nights ago, I was watching a rerun of Top Gear on BBC, in which the guys had to take dogs for rides in Mini Cooper sized cars. Of course, these were not terriers, they were a Wolfhound, a Great Dane and a St. Bernard. I loved the St. Bernard, because he behaved like Thor: Looking at the hatchback of the car as if to say, "You want me to sit Where?" with a similar reaction to the back seat. Ultimately the St. Bernard sat down in the front seat, leaving little room for the driver, and thoroughly enjoyed his ride, judging by the face stuffed into the camera and prodigious amounts of drool and slime in the car at the end. But what I found particularly funny was when one of the guys who was not driving the St. Bernard around said that the dog looked sad, to which the driver responded, "That's his regular face!" So, I thought we ought to see some of the many faces of Thor. Then, if you're ever called upon to determine if a Mastiff is happy or sad based upon facial expression, you'll know.

First up: Thor's "I'm waiting for a cookie!" face. Pretty happy, especially when he gets said cookie.

Next, Thor's "I'm snoozing beside my bowl, in hopes someone will give me some good food!" face. Hopeful, really.
Thor's "I wonder what's going on over there, and if it will involve food!" face. Curious, in other words. (Note the stacked 5 gallon buckets behind Thor. They hold his food dish at a proper level. No fancy dish stand for Thor. Mango's Momma is a class act with her fancy stand.)
The "I'm such a good boy. Will you feed me?" face. Pretty normal.
"I'm happy. My world is just as it should be." This is Thor's most common face.
Sorry, I can't show you a sad mastiff face after all! I guess Thor doesn't wear that face unless his people have all disappeared on him.

But, Thor suggests that the St. Bernard wasn't wearing a sad face. All dogs like car rides, after all.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Brownie Tuesdays and Fabric

I'm guessing that we are just beginning to feel the effects of the heat wave that has gripped the middle of the country for a while now. I've mentioned before that Tuesday night around here is Brownie Tuesday night, and heat or no, my hungry hordes expect Brownie Tuesdays.

Last night's batch of brownies had sprinkles on top, inspired by the Blond Duck. I used my usual recipe, found here. But baking sprinkles into the top of box mix brownies
is also awesome.

I used instant chocolate pudding. I didn't feel like fussing with melting chocolate and all the rest of it, and the boys wanted chocolate pudding on their Brownie Tuesdays. Topped with whipped cream and sprinkles, it was a fun dessert.

Yesterday, the postman brought me something I didn't need: more fabric. But I found sweater fabric on sale, and remembered that back in the late 80s, I wore sweater outfits in the winter time. I thought I'd try my hand at a couple, since the fabric was on sale for $4 per yard. If I waste $24 (2 pieces of fabric), well, it kept me amused for a while. The top color is a very pale yellow, and the bottom one is maroon and pink.

I also got a blue embroidered gauze, pink embroidered, and plum knit.

So, here's the plan:

Blue gauze - a line summer dress (1 yard)
Pink - summer dress (1.5 yard)
Green linen - skirts for me and lawyer daughter (2.5 yards)
White linen - skirts for me and lawyer daughter (2.5 yards)
turquoise cotton - summer dress and...? (3 yards)
Yellow windowpane fabric - Long sleeved spring dress and maybe a line summer dress (4 yards)

There's also sewing to be done for a stuffed mouse's birthday, but that's a story for Friday or Saturday. I have to keep you wondering, don't I?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Garden Tuesday: Bird

Stepping outside on a nice sunny morning to sit at my table and enjoy a cup of tea, who should I find there before me but this little guy?
I moved carefully around him to get a better look. He moved around, too. Do you think he wanted to be blurry?
Then he flitted off to this spruce tree, no more than 20 feet from me. He did his birdie thing, and I enjoyed my tea and sunshine.
Hope this week isn't too much of a scorcher for all of you!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dresses and Tops

I didn't sew at all during June. I decided I needed to clean out and reorganize my closets and dressers (yes, plural, because what husband wouldn't want to sacrifice closet and drawer space for his wife?).

So, on the Fourth of July weekend, I was ready to go. I had bought this pattern, and really wanted a pink dress from it. But, being a little afraid, I first tried it in this white eyelet I bought last year. The eyelet was a great bargain, 14 yards for about $25 (and I had always wanted white eyelet dresses). Of course, I have so much left over that it can be used as a trial run for just about anything. My dearly beloved hated it. Truth be told, I am not wild about the center front seam in the skirt, which doesn't really show in this picture. But I'll probably never wear it.
Then, I had bought McCalls M6078 top pattern, and was really excited to try it. This top is actually a hunter green, but the flash washed it out. Sadly, hubby hated this, too, because the fabric is fairly heavy, so the drape of the neck isn't that pronounced.
So I made this pink and white striped cami from a pattern I first tried in April. At last, something I could wear (and could zip out in an hour).
Then I made another, from identical fabric that had a blue and white stripe. At last, I was feeling better, with two successes for the weekend in my closet.
So, back to the McCalls, with this white stretchy rayon knit. I liked it pretty well, and wore it with a red skirt, blue shoes and my blue shawl. It was 4th of July, after all! Of course, I forgot to take pictures.
Then, I cut this dress and jacket combo out of the pink windowpane fabric I'd wanted to use with Butterick B5350. I just loved the fabric too much to risk a dress I wasn't sure I loved. And I decided to make a little shrug from the same fabric. I've made this jacket in the winter, always lined.
I didn't line this one; instead, I finished the raw edges with seam binding, then stitched or blind hemmed it in place. I think this is called the "Hong Kong Finish", and that's what I'm going with, because it sounds so fancy and all. I wore this to the eye doctor's office, and garnered several compliments. That's always nice.
Although I ordered 3 yards of this fabric from Fabric Mart, I got very close to 4 yards. So there's enough pink left for another sleeveless dress. Maybe this weekend or next I'll make a princess seamed dress from a pattern I know, love, and use often for knit dresses. And at least I got something out of my weekend's work!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Review!

Have you ever seen the Masterpiece Theatre production of The 39 Steps? It's grey, gloomy and exciting. So, when I found the book among this set of mystery novels I'd purchased from the used book sale, I became very excited.
Thor was excited, too. He was just reading a different book. Thor's a thinker.

by John Buchan
copyright 1915

It's World War I in London, and Richard Hanney has been back in London for 3
months, his father having moved the family away 30 years earlier, when Richard was 6 years old. Every night, he dines in his club and passes the evening there; he has become bored and considering moving again. One evening, an American named Scudder follows Hanney into his flat. Scudder has staged his own death in his flat, located in the same building. Scudder explains to Hanney that he knows of a German plot against Britain, and he is being pursued to kill the knowledge. Sure enough, after 4 days in Hanney's flat, Scudder is murdered; when investigators arrive, Hanney flees out a bedroom window with Scudder's evidence to protect himself. The chase leads through England and Scotland. Fast paced and exciting, the book has a very satisfying conclusion. The book was only about 120 pages long, and I read it in about an hour. It's a highly enjoyable step back in time, and highly recommended.

And there was little food involved in the book, but this is last night's dinner (just to prove I'm still cooking). And because a picture of just a line of books isn't very interesting.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cool Down Thorsday!

How does a giant dog stay cool on a hot summer day?

With low calorie frozen treats, of course. The uninitiated call them "ice cubes".

After chomping, you have to chase all the little ice chips around the floor.

Just be thankful you don't have to see the slime all over the place.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

Yes, "Chocolate" and "Strawberry" in the same thing. I knew that would get everyone's attention.

I wanted an easy dessert for the hordes on Sunday night. Everyone loves chocolate cake. I also had some strawberries that were begging to do something other than gallop full speed into my mouth. And so this idea was born. Use complicated recipes or simple substitutions, as you wish. After all, it's summer, traditional vacation time, and you shouldn't work too hard.

1 recipe chocolate cake batter (use this recipe, or this one, or a box. It's all good.)
1 pound strawberries, sliced thin, stirred with 2tbsp sugar
1 cup whipping cream, whipped with 1 tsp vanilla and 1/4 cup sugar (or whatever whipped topping you love)

Pour the cake batter into 12 greased coffee or tea cups. Place on a baking sheet, and place in a preheated 350F oven for 22 to 27 minutes, until the cakes test done. Cool completely. Using a pointed knife, cut a cone out of the center of the cupcake, and lift out. Spoon 1 to 2 tbsp whipped cream into the cake and replace the cone, pushing down gently so it oozes around.. Put another 1 to 2 tbsp whipped cream on top of the cake, and spread it out. Spoon some strawberries on top. If desired, put a touch more whipped cream atop the strawberries, sprinkle some colored sugar on top for decoration, and serve.

All of your chocolate fiends who also enjoy strawberry shortcake should really scarf this down. I know that mine did, even the picky eaters!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Garden Tuesday: Future Grapes

Yes, folks, there's great hope in my little corner of the world that we'll have a bumper crop of grapes.

I just hope the birds don't eat them before they're ripe enough for us.
Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Risotto With Corn

I'll bet you thought I'd forgotten how to cook, right? Nope. Just not much different food going on around here these days, with the circus that is my life this summer. Nothing dramatic, just busy.

So, I found a recipe for risotto made with corn in my paper last week. And I thought I could do that. Of course, you know full right and well that it's been made a little easier by me, your favorite lazy cook. So, risotto made with corn is different, but it did meet with approval from the hungry hordes.


olive oil
1/2 cup chopped chives or green onions
2 cups white rice*
4 to 5 cups chicken broth
2 cups corn, pureed in the food processor
ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil to a simmer in a large pan, add the chives or green onions, and saute 2 to 3 minutes, until soft. Add the rice, cook and stir another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the 1 cup of the chicken broth, and stir well. Cook until most of the broth is gone, and stir in another cup of the broth. Repeat with the third cup of broth. With the fourth cup of broth, add the pureed corn and pepper, stir well, and continue simmering, stirring occasionally. Add the fifth cup of broth, if necessary, and stir in the parmesan just before all of the liquid is absorbed.

*Note: the recipe called for Arboria rice, but I didn't have it. I also have the impression it costs an exorbitant amount per pound, and I'm too cheap to lay out a lot for starch. Just sayin'. It didn't tell me explicitly to stir the rice constantly, as most risotto recipes do, so I didn't, and it was fine.

Ryan spent the meal playfully whining about my habit of putting weird things in his rice, but Dan deemed it pretty good. So, as Ryan was rinsing his plate, he offered one last complaint about yellow and green things in his rice, so Dan got his low velocity air soft pistol and shot Ryan in the butt. Yes, I let the boys play with airsoft pistols, and even shoot each other while doing so. Before I did, I shot myself in the leg. It stung pretty well, but the boys don't wear skirts, and don't shoot each other from 2 feet apart, so there's no harm. And most of the time they do this out in the yard, wandering around in the fresh air and sunshine, so I have no gripe there. And when Dan bellows, "I'm defending my mother's honor and cooking!" who can argue?

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Review!

I told you that I read old books, so you won't be hearing about the summer's bestsellers here. But you might just find something to check out of the library, under the approving smile of the librarian who's tired of hearing requests for the perpetually out-of-stock stuff.

Taylor Caldwell is one of my favorite authors. Her books are never action packed mystery thrillers or whatever else sells. Instead, they all seem to be set between 1870 and 1920, in Massachusetts, New York or Pennsylvania, and are all about a slice of life there. I had actually never read this one before I found it at a book sale for 50 cents in April - how could I have gone wrong with it?

By Taylor Caldwell
c. 1973

According to the first chapter, this is the story of the life of Dan Hendricks. It's set in a small town in Northwestern Pennsylvania between approximately 1890 and 1920. It's also the story of our narrator, the son of the town doctor, who becomes the town doctor himself, Olivia and Beverly. The story follows our four main characters through life from about age 12 through Dan's death at about 40, with varying degrees of detail. It's a long, gentle story which rambles, but draws the reader in. The reader loves most of the characters and sees one as despicable from the outset of the book. As I said, it's not exciting, but it is engrossing.

Happy reading!

On another happy note, Dan went out last night. This morning, I found a new electric kettle on my kitchen counter. What a wonderful son I have!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Out With the Old, and In With.....

...the Ancient.

My electric kettle has decided that 100 to 120degrees fahrenheit is the perfect temperature for tea water. Sadly, my tea disagrees. So, I've ordered a new one. In the meantime, I'm using....

....purchased in 1977, this was a hot ticket for college bound kids. You could heat up water for tea, cocoa or instant coffee, cook less than 8 ounces of pasta, and cook soup or other canned foods. You couldn't beat it with a stick.

Sad to say, it's only 400 watts, so it takes like 10 minutes to heat the water for a cup of tea. Amazon, you'd better have UPS moving soon!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's Thorsday!

I wonder if they're going to share whatever they have with me? Hmmm?

Maybe I'll just lie down to wait.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!