Saturday, October 29, 2011

At The Pumpkin Farm

I took the boys to another used book sale this morning. They only found about a dozen books. I'm thinking that must mean we have an awful lot of books.

Then we went to the pumpkin patch. They had this cute decoration in front of the barn.

And the boys tromped around to select their pumpkins while I hid on the porch. Can you see why?

Yep. Stinkin' Snow. I told Chan around 11 that I thought we'd dodged a bullet, because it was just raining. That changed about 15 minutes later. And look what has happened in my side yard in just 2 hours!!!!

This could be bad. I'm putting hot water and coffee in thermoses, and heating the house way up, because with all the trees in full leaf, we are probably headed for a power outage. Maybe I can get my little guy's birthday cake made before that happens.

Happy Saturday, everyone.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Soup: It's What's for Lunch

In scanning Louise's cookbook contest, I noticed that there's a category called, "Eat Better, Eat Together Month". That suits my philosophy to a Tee.

Breakfast and lunch are kind of a free-for-all in my house. I feed breakfast to Ryan and Mark before school, but lunch is up to them. It's my way of creating a little bit of food independence in them. However, dinner is non-negotiable. If you live in my house (as either a household member or a transient guest), you will sit down to eat with the family, and you will eat what I serve, and you will like it. The evening meal is run by a benevolent dictator.

And, of late, my dearly beloved has been getting the same kind of treatment for lunch. He "forgets" to eat. He "doesn't want" lunch. And, of course, a man who just forgets to eat can also lose 5 pounds a week (ladies, we all have permission to hate him for that). So, this chilly weather is just the thing to permit me to force him to "Eat Better, Eat Together...." Eat Soup. This is an adaptation of fast soup recipes from various and sundry cookbooks, but mostly, it's a good way to make a great lunch out of tiny amounts of leftover food that would otherwise be wasted.


For Each cup of soup:

1 tsp beef base or 1 bouillon cube
2 tbsp cooked rice
2 tbsp mushrooms (fresh or canned)
2 tbsp canned diced tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped scallions
boiling water

Put the rice, mushrooms, and tomatoes in your soup cup, and microwave it for about 90 seconds (2 minutes for 2 cups). Meanwhile, boil your water. When the rice mix is hot, out the spoon containing the beef base into the cup, on top of the rice mix, and pour boiling water over it. Stir until the beef base is dissolved. Add the scallions, let it sit for a minute, and serve with some crackers or a roll. Share the second cup with someone you love; you'll enjoy it so much more.

You can also follow this recipe to make soup to put in your thermos. It will cheer you up at lunchtime at work, I promise!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Royal Frosting and Cocoa Filling

I believe this is the last week for Louise's cookbook contest, wherein you make something from a cookbook, and submit it to her. Of course, I couldn't let the week go by without participating at least once, could I?

Ryan's forever howling that I need to do something interesting with my
cakes. Jeepers. I thought that desert every night should be interesting enough. The boy might be spoiled. Anyway, the other night I made a chocolate cake as requested by Mark, in layers. I don't like making layer cakes; the frosting is more complicated, and I can't handle much more complication in my life. Still and all, Mark having recruited his brothers to chime in for layer cake, I acquiesced. Then my old friend Fannie Farmer gave me an idea as to what to do with it. So, today, you get two recipes for the price of one!


1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Stir all 4 ingredients until well combined, and refrigerate for at least an hour (I d
id this right after putting the cake in the oven). When the cake is cooled, beat this mixture until it's fluffy and stiff, spread on the bottom layer, and put the top layer in place. My beloved commented that this was a little bitter for his taste, so I'd probably go with 3 tbsp of sugar next time.


1 egg white
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup boiling water.

Put all ingredients into your bowl, and beat until it stands up. Note that this will take 8 to 10 minutes. The delightful Mrs. Farmer says that stopping during the beating process will not adversely affect your outcome, but I just used my stand mixer. I do have to say that for the first few minutes, this mixture looked rather brown and dull, and I was pretty certain I'd be starting over with standard buttercream frosting. Not to worry, however, as this was arguably the prettiest cake I've ever made!

Flavor results for this frosting were rather mixed. My dearly beloved said it had no flavor. Ryan thought it rather marshmallow-y in flavor, and Dan thought it tasted some
what similar to meringue. Maybe with strawberry extract, which would be a more vivid color and flavor, it would be greeted more enthusiastically. I might just have to try that with a white cake. I think that this frosting on a white cake might be considered diet cake. Almost. Hmmm. It's worth thinking about.

So, Louise, I submit this for your Dessert month category!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Garden Tuesday: Halloween Edition

Just down the street from our little library, we happened upon this flower bed. Of course, you could tell it's not in my yard, because I don't plant fresh, seasonal flowers throughout the year. I'm lazy that way.

Right in the middle of my own little town, this is the Town Center building. It was built by a prominent local family, and deeded to the town (said family also built the school and deeded that to the town) in the 1920s. Isn't this marble entry door simply wonderful?

And this house is the oldest one in town. It was the first house built which wasn't a log cabin (all of which are long gone), and was built by a doctor in 1826. It was sold a year or 2 ago to a young family who evidently is very excited about the holidays. This is the second Halloween they've decorated; last year, it was just the crows. Ryan reports that he's seen plenty of cars simply stop in the middle of the street to take pictures of the yard, and it was featured in our paper today.

I love that these people are so enthusiastic about their beautiful home. They also gave me a great Halloween edition for Garden Tuesday, because you're all doubtless bored with my yard.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Round and About.... the book sale on Saturday!

Two more views of the pretty little town I'd shown you before.

And I didn't try to park here.

I bought books to ship to my mother, books for the boys, books for my girls, and even these two for me!
Hope you all had an equally relaxing weekend.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is he doing?

What is Dan doing in my driveway with that sheet of maple plywood?
Any guesses?
The mystery will be solved in a couple of days.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cinnamon Oat Rolls

This was the companion to my breakfast parfaits. Who doesn't like a cinnamon roll, after all, and if they're healthier, then we should just go for it!


3/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp yeast
2 cups flour
1/2 cup oats (regular or quick, whatever you have)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 to 2 tbsp melted butter
brown sugar

Pour the water in your mixing bowl or bread machine bucket; sprinkle the yeast on it, then add the flour, oats, sugar, salt and oil. Mix according to my bread tutorial directions (about 10 minutes). Let rise for 10 minutes, then divide the dough in half and roll out half to about 1/4" thick, perhaps 8"x12" dimensions. Brush the melted butter on the dough, sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon atop, then roll along the 12" dimension. Cut into 3/4" to 1" thick slices, rotate 90 degrees and stand on a baking sheet covered with waxed paper which is greased, and let rise for 10 minutes. Repeat for the other half of the dough, if desired. Bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes, until they're browned and perfect. Make a glaze with confectioner's sugar, a bit of vanilla and a bit of milk to drizzle over the cinnamon rolls, if desired. Makes a total of 24 cinnamon rolls.

The boys devoured these. They didn't even realize there was oatmeal in their cinnamon rolls, and therefore, they were a healthy treat. So, I suppose these will quality for "Cool Foods For Kids" in Louise's contest. I did start with a cinnamon roll recipe in my bread machine cookbook, but it's not even recognizable. Sometimes inspiration strikes as you're standing elbow-deep in ingredients, after all!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Breakfast Parfaits

This delightful little breakfast takes about 2 minutes to assemble, looks really pretty, and fills you for a while at a relatively low calorie count. What's not to love?


For each parfait:

8 ounces plain yogurt
4 ounces blueberry compote (approx)
1/4 cup granola

Find your prettiest dessert glass. Layer in it blueberry compote, half the yogurt, half the granola, more blueberry compote, the balance of the yogurt, the balance of the granola, and another dollop of blueberry compote. Voila! Breakfast!

I loved this. My dearly beloved made faces at the yogurt, and told me it tastes like sour milk. Maybe next time I should stir in a little vanilla and some sweetener?

Thor wouldn't have told me it was sour. He'd have asked for more.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blueberry Compote

I decided last weekend that I wanted something to perk up breakfast and involved blueberries. So I just did what anyone would do: pull a pound of blueberries out of the freezer, and wing it. This was very popular, so I had to figure out a fast way to do it too. You, my invisible friends, are the lucky recipients of my desire to have blueberry something!

Version 1

1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup water
3 tbsp Creme de Cassis (optional)
1 pound (approx 3 cups) frozen blueberries

In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch until they are well blended. Add the water and Creme de Cassis, and cook until the solids dissolve and the mixture is hot. With a wooden spoon, stir in the blueberries, and cook until it simmers and thickens, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Makes about 1 quart.
Version 2: For when you only need a bit, and just can't wait.

3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 tbsp Creme de Cassis (optional)

Put the blueberries in a 2 cup microwavable measuring cup. Sprinkle in the sugar and cornstarch, and stir well to coat the berries. Cook in the microwave at high power for 1 minute, remove, stir well, stir in the Creme de Cassis (if used), and return to the microwave to cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens, stirring every minute or so. Perfect for when someone wants warm compote over ice cream for dessert. (Can you tell I spoil my someone?)

This was great served over ice cream, and over pound cake. I don't know how long it will keep, because it only lasted 2 days. Oh, well. At least they loved it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Garden Tuesday: The Start of Fall

Ryan took these pictures; the kid has a good eye.

This is the bottom of our driveway.The house is at the top of the hill to the right.

This is in our "forest", which is only about 2 acres. The sunlight on the ground is pretty.

There will be much more color next week, as it gets colder!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Review!

Mary Roberts Rhinehart is an iconic American author. I've seen her referred to as "the American Agatha Christie," high praise, indeed, for writing mystery novels which are logical and entertaining. This book certainly fills that bill.

by Mary Roberts Rhinehart
copyright 1945
In WW2 New York City, 24 year old Carol Spencer sat aboard a train bound for Newport, Rhode Island, with her mother, a peevish, fretful society woman, and three servants. Her fiance having been shot down and presumed dead, Carol had wanted to join the armed forces as a nurse, a plan vetoed by her mother. With her 32 year old brother Greg embarking upon a month's leave, during which he was to receive a commendation and be married, Carol was dropping her mother off at her sister's house in Newport, from thence to continue to Maine with the three servants to open the family's vacation home at her mother's behest.

Upon her arrival in Maine, Carol finds George, the gardener, hospitalized with appendicitis and the yard overgrown, and Lucy, the housekeeper, not in evidence. When one of the NYC maids opened the linen closet, a body fell out. And thus begins a tale of murder, AWOL service men, and mysterious newcomers set in a close-lipped New England town. Some things seem odd to us today, such as the power being shut off by the utility company to all vacation homes (hello? frozen pipes?), gas and food rationing, and, of course, the "society" people who really don't exist today. But this was a good, entertaining read, fast paced and lively. Mrs. Rhinehart is able to make us feel emotion for each of the characters, which is essential to real enjoyment of a book.

This is available on Amazon - be sure you get the one by Mary Roberts Rhinehart, and not one by any of several different authors (including "Anonymous"). It's a fun book.

And a memory of our Thor, the day he got his cow tail from Debbie Cook. He did enjoy it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Columbus Day Cake!

Monday was the day we celebrate as Columbus Day here in the US, although the actual date is today, October 12. So, you're in luck! You still have time to make this cake!

This is so obviously a "Cool Food For Kids" for Louise's celebration. You can use half of a yellow cake mix, but I suggest instead that you use half of the one bowl yellow cake recipe I found in a Fanny Farmer Cookbook (you can find that here). Bake it in a well greased oval casserole dish, cut a notch in the top so the fo'castle and poopdeck are formed, frost with chocol
ate frosting (or the mocha frosting at that very same link), and frost. Use a wooden skewer, cut a square sail from a piece of paper. The sail should be the same dimension as the width of your ship. Stick the sail in the middle of the cake, and watch those kids smile!

See? Don't they look happy? Clearly this is a cool food.

And if you don't feel like making this tonight, just make it for Thanksgiving and call it the Mayflower. The kids will be very excited.

Happy Columbus Day, everyone!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Lawn

I love old books. With that in mind, you won't be surprised that, a few years back, I scooped up a set of 4 books labeled The Audel's Grower's Guide. Having been published in the 1920s, they are quite amusing, but they contain wonderful information. Here's one of my favorite tidbits:

An English gardener when asked how to make a lawn replied: "Oh, it's quite easy, quite easy, I assure you. You prepare the ground carefully, and you sow it with a mixture of the best grades of lawn grass seed, and then all you have to do is roll it for about 300 years. And there you are."

Biggify the picture to verify that's what it says, but Audel's does acknowledge that it's not that hard.

So, my yard started out as a cow pasture around 1820 or 1830, then became a back yard around 1923, in which horses grazed happily until perhaps the 1940s or 1950s. I doubt it was ever seeded.

How am I doing after less than 200 years?

Happy Garden Tuesday!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Orange Oat Muffins

Louise issued a challenge: Dig out your cookbooks, find a recipe, and make it. Choose one appropriate to an October food celebration. Change it up some, maybe, post it, and tell her. Mine came from the trusty red checked cookbook that most of us grew up with and have even today.


1-1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp powdered milk
2 tsp baking powder
1/5 tsp salt
1/2 cup oats - quick or not
3/4 cup orange juice
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Stir together the dry ingredients, make a well in the center and add the juice, egg and oil. Stir until moistened, then stir in the walnuts. Spoon into muffin cups (I used 18 standard muffin cups), sprinkle white or brown sugar on top if you wish (I used brown sugar), and bake at 375F for 15 to 20 minutes, until they test done.
These are not only great for breakfast or dessert, they're a great lunch box filler. So, there you are, Louise, an entry for School Lunch Month! It also works for Cool Foods for Kids Month! Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Last Weekend's sewing

Last weekend, I made a dress for the relative in Denver from the same turquoise as my second V1250 dress. The pattern was quite shapeless, so I ran 5 inverted pleats, open at each end, across the front at the waist. I think the sleeves are too long, but she called me last night to say that both she and her husband love it. I love it when things work out well.

I had this floral that I wanted to use, since I was sewing in blue anyway (Sue is right about my tendency to using color families), so I made a draped neck cami
and a drape necked top. Not sure when I'll wear them, since the weather's turning cooler, but they'll doubtless wait for me.

I'm distracted this weekend. My nursing school daughter called me Friday. What do you get when you mix this:

With an 18-wheeler doing 35 in a construction zone who fails to stop at a red light where 2 other vehicles are already stopped?

Lucky. Damn lucky. My daughter is fine, but her car is totaled. The cop told her she'd have been dead if she had been driving a smaller car. The car is now 3 feet shorter front to back, and sitting on the ground. Her siblings have been rotating in and out of her college apartment to keep waking her (she had a concussion), and chauffeur her around (no car and whiplash). I have purposely stayed away, so I don't smother her. I'll be normal in a couple of days, after she sounds normal.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review

Here's another of those red and blue bound mystery books.

by Josephine Tey
copyright 1951

Scotland yard agent Alan Grant, bedridden in the hospital because he fell through a trap door, is bored. A kindly nurse he has dubbed "The Midget" urged him to read the many books his friends have brought him to alleviate his "prickles of boredom.". (Side note: I would like friends bearing books!) Alan's friend Marta, knowing his fascination with faces, brought him a group of portraits, one of which caught his eye: King Richard III - whom he took for a murderer before reading the caption on the picture. Richard III is said to have murdered his two nephews, who were the rightful heirs to the throne. Grant had historical reference books broug
ht to him in an effort to solve the historical murder mystery.

This was not an exciting read, but it was a nice, quiet book for a cold night at home.
I do enjoy books from a while ago, but not an unrecognizable time ago, because they make contemporary reference to things which are now a part of history. For instance, in this book, there is reference to a picture of someone wearing a strange hat to Princess Elizabeth's wedding; it was with a start that I realized that this princess is now Queen Elizabeth II. And it was rather amusing to recall that there were derogatory pictures of a hat at a much more recent royal wedding. Some things don't change!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Our First 7th Grade Test

Thank you all for your dishwasher detergent comments. I'm doing more research, and will report when I have something intelligent to say.

So, today we've been working on Mark's first test for Calvert School's seventh grade.
There are probably a bunch of you who wonder why on earth I would homeschool my kids instead of sending them to school. Well, in a word, it's a very deep curriculum for whatever age is being taught. Here are sample questions from his testing. Remember, this is the first test for seventh grade. These questions are typical, and I think there are adults who would be hard pressed to answer some of these. For example:

Reading: "The reader could view the story told in Around the World in 80 Days as two races - one involving Phileas Fogg, the other involving Fix. Write a paragraph discussing the two races and be sure to include what each character is racing, and for what reason."

Geography: "Half of earth's land is not useful to humans. Why do you think this is so?"

Art History: "List 3 characteristics of an Egyptian temple."

Science: "List and describe 3 characteristics of living things."

History: "Using complete sentences, identify and give the importance of: archaeology, Constantine, Justinian, Muhammad, Gupta India and Byzantine Empire."

Of course, there are spelling, grammar and composition requirements, multiple choice and fill in the blanks for all areas, and many more than just one question for each subject. I just took the first question from each area for you.

And we miss our school guidance counselor terribly. He was a great, soothing presence in the classroom for many years.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Anyone Have an Answer.... the problem of dishwasher detergent?

You've all heard the rumors that I have 3 dishwashers. I do. There's one in the breakfast room:

(Yes, there are 2 coffee pots, plus both a can of Folgers and a coffee grinder on that counter. There's a lot of coffee consumed hereabouts.)

And there are two in the kitchen.
For 30 years, I happily used Cascade powder. My dishes were clean, even when I didn't wash them carefully, and I was a happy camper. All of that changed in the summer of 2010. And I have tried everything to get my dishes clean again.

Powders leave white residue and icky films all over my dishes, and sometimes I can get it off using steel wool and soap. Sometimes I just throw them out (especially glasses). The liquid or gel detergents don't clean the dishes. I have a big flowered mug I keep filled with tea all day, and it's stained, of course, at the end of the day. Cascade powder used to clean it without any work on my part. Nothing today does.

So, does anyone have any solution?

All this comes to a boil because my dearly beloved has agreed that the dishwasher in the breakfast room is a great big (string of expletives deleted), and should be replaced. But if I can't get my dishes clean because detergent is now (more expletives deleted), what's the point? I could have my son build a lovely cupboard front to match those already there, since I already have to wash my dishes by hand before I put them in the dishrinser.

So, talk to me, everyone. Tell me what to do about the magical cabinets into which I used to be able to put in dirty dishes, and an hour or 2 later I'd have sparkly clean ones!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Garden Tuesday: Hydrangea

For Pam, who asked what my new hydrangea looks like after the planting crew left.

(It's been so wet outside that I don't want to venture far, anyway. Every day the weather idiots promise sunshine "tomorrow". My feet are waterlogged.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Buttery Dinner Rolls

It was a cold and rainy night last Thursday. That's no surprise, given that it was the end of September, and one of the rainiest months on record here. So I wanted hot dinner rolls. I started with a bread recipe in my Foods From Famous Kitchens cookbook (which is falling apart at the seams), tweaked it a tad, and had a winner of a recipe. How did I know it was a winner? Why, my littlest fussbudget went hunting for one for lunch on Friday, nuked it a few seconds, and happily munched it with some soup.


1-1/2 cups very warm water
6 tsp yeast
4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp dry milk powder
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces

Pour the water in your bread machine container or mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top of it, and add the remaining ingredients in the order given. Mix according to the directions in my bread tutorial (see link to the right), knead once. let rise, and punch down. Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking tray and let them rise until approximately doubled in size, poke a dimple into the top of each, and put a little pat of butter in each dimple. Bake at 375F for 16 to 19 minutes, until they reach your desired degree of brownness.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

July & August sewing

I never wrote about the sewing I did in July and August. Since it's October, and I've started sewing again, I need to record what I did, lest I forget.

This was a pink eyelet embroidered fabric. I was so short of the fabric that I used plain white for the facing. I love it anyway.
Blue gauze with gold and metallic silver embroidery on it. Great summer dress. This must be a lat night picture, because I look wiped out.

I had a little of that blue gauze left over, so I took a pattern I made based on something GMarie flagged in a magazine she sent me, cut it out of a blue voile left over from something else along about 1995, and made this fluffy little number.
Drape necked cami from a pink stretch lace. Ribbon straps - 3 per side. I like ribbons.

White linen pencil skirt. Fits well; I wore it to the dentist last week.
This is the dress that generated the remnant for the scarf I sent with the outfit to Denver. My dearly beloved exclaimed that I look like I'm going to a garden tea party, and it's very feminine.

There was enough extra fabric that I turned it into a skirt. Because it's a very light fabric, I lined it with a dark pink something - I think maybe organza? Whatever's sheer, sorta stiff and itchy. I like that it changed the color of the skirt. This one's from my favorite 6-gore pattern.
Lightweight green linen skirt from the same 6-gore pattern. Of course, mine turns out to be 7 gores, because I put the zipper in the center back, never on the side.
Summer dress from the same green linen. The dress came first, and the skirt was leftovers. I wore this in Florida, and it was a brilliant choice for hot days, despite the fact that linen wrinkles a lot.

Last up: Orange. I don't know why I bought this fabric, unless it was really cheap. I don't wear orange. I know even less why I chose to use it, unless it was because I wanted it used. It came out pretty well, and I'll wear it at least once next summer. Of course, Ryan, being a smartass, brought me a green hat to wear with it, so I'll look like a carrot. Great kid.

And so that's the old news. A dress for the relative in Denver and one for me are the news from this weekend, but I haven't quite finished them. Too bad. It's time to bake a cake.

Hope you've all had great weekends!