Monday, December 31, 2012

Merry Christmas, A Little Late!

I'll bet you all thought I fell off the face of the planet.  Nope.  Just year end tax planning crap and business crap intertwined with Christmas had me running at full speed.  So, let me show you some of the highlights of Christmas week with us:

 The kids played board games together.  Close observers will note that this Scrabble game is being played by about 7 people.  Games can be confusing hereabouts.

They played a large number of rounds of Apples to Apples.  That game is a hoot; fans of group games would really enjoy that one, and it's suitable for all ages!

Jeff and Ryan brought some whole walnuts home from the store, and spent a while cracking them bare-handed.  If George Washington could do it, my boys figure they should be able to do it, as well.
"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care..."  and all that.  It does appear that Santa put something in them.

Christmas breakfast is always prepared in advance, other than my famous punch.  Dan and Jeff both have the recipe now, so the tradition can carry on in perpetuity.
 This is me on  Christmas Eve, but I'm betting you guessed that already.  The choker was sent to me recently; it belonged to my maternal grandmother's aunt, and was purchased about 100 years ago.  The stone is said to be amethyst, but I don't know about that.  I do know that it's really pretty.
 And what would Christmas be without a feast?  Here's the standing rib roast, lovingly carved by Jeffrey.  Of course, sampling occurred.  How else would we know it was good enough for Christmas dinner?

The table looked good.

Everyone showed up, eager for food.
 Lastly, a picture of me with my girls.  Aren't they beautiful?
 My dress was made from a piece of white Panne Velvet which came in my last fabric shipment.  The fabric was simply beautiful, soft, warm and elegant.  And I didn't even spill my food on myself (which seems to happen alarmingly often; I think food is attracted to white clothing.  Eat spaghetti while wearing a white shirt some time.  I rest my case.)

And we had just a tiny bit of snow on Christmas.  Of course, we had 6" the day after Christmas, and another 6" on Saturday, so it's pretty white out there now.

Happy New Year to all of you out there in Blogville.  See you again soon!
 And what would Christmas be without a feast?

Friday, December 21, 2012

*Expletive Deleted*...

...The Mayans were right.  Or so I said when the power went out at 1AM our time, which I figured was approximately midnight Mayan time.

My boys had decided that the world would end at the start of 12/21.  And the power outage sure looked like they were right. 

And, crap!  My generator is ordered, but won't be installed until early January.

At least we had picked up the Christmas tree before the world ended.  (And I played with a 9 week old Great Pyrenees puppy at the tree farm.  He was an adorable ball of fluff.)

And then the power came back on after only 50 minutes.  Joy to the world.  I'm easily pleased these days.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I've done all of my Christmas shopping, and birthday shopping for the daughter whose birthday is 5 days after Christmas, and even wrapped much of it!  Hooray for me!  (I'm allowed to cheer for myself, honestly, I am).  And it was all done from this chair where I sit now.

See?  That's a lot of stuff.  Of course, I shop for a lot of people.

So, being the friendly individual I am, here's a report on the various merchants I used, and their shipping habits, so maybe I can save you from the crowds in the future: I have the prime membership, because I got mad when they shipped things via USPS once too often, and they never arrived (some of you know the post office saga for my little town, and I won't bore the rest of you with it).  So now if I want a $3 item, I order it, and they have to ship it free.  Much of the time, their prices are fair, and they do ship very quickly, always via UPS.

Barnes & Noble: Fast for books, 2 to 3 days generally.  Sometimes ship via USPS, sometimes UPS, sometimes Fedex.  That's a crapshoot.  Often they offer free shipping.

K-Mart: Yes, I shop at K-Mart.  Corelle is the same whether you get it a bargain price, or pay more from Macy's.  Just sayin'.  I've ordered from them 4 times this season, and always gotten things in 2 days, via UPS.  Shipping has always been free, because I ordered over a certain amount.  They can certainly continue to supply me in the future.

Wal-Mart: Surprisingly fast on big things, like a vacuum cleaner and microwave that I had drop shipped to a daughter in a distant location.  Both arrived in 2 days.  Small things?  Kinda iffy.  I ordered a camera with case and memory card for someone, which needed to be shipped from here with other gifts.  The camera arrived in about 5 days, the memory card in about 8 days, and the case still isn't here.  Bah!  They use Fedex for the most part.  Sometimes shipping is free, but sometimes they're crappy about it.  I ordered a set of plastic hangers with about $75 worth of other stuff, for which shipment was all free.  The hangers were $18, and they wanted $5 for shipping them.  I cancelled the hangers.  You don't charge me 1/3 of the purchase price for shipping.

Pfaltzgraf for kitchenware and such: under a week for delivery, fair prices, good quality merchandise.  They ship via UPS, also.

Clothing sites such as Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, Dockers, American Eagle, Forever 21, PacSun are slower to ship.  Oh, they offer free shipment, but that takes about 2 weeks.  To have it in under a week, you pay a premium for shipping.  If you know sizes, and if you think far enough in advance, they're all good. is my go-to for staples like toothpaste and mouthwash and deodorant and advil.  Really, I know when I open the last container I have of any of those things, and I can certainly think far enough ahead to order a week before I need it.  Shipping is free for over $25 (and how hard is it to spend $25 at the drugstore), and usually arrives here in 2 to 3 days.

So there you are.  I hope this information helps some of you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Flowers

No, there are no flowers in my actual garden.  There's only mud. 

This is how my Remote Elf's flowers look after 3 days.  Aren't they wonderful?

And now, back to work.  Next Wednesday I can rest.   (And, as Karin suggested, this is one remote I plan to keep.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

More Fabric, Or, I Must Be Nuts!

So, around the time I was sewing my red velour clothing, I decided that more velour and winter wear would be great.  And since I was conspicuously lacking in the velour fabric department, what could be better than ordering some?  Until my boys opened this box, and began heartily laughing at me.

From the top:  Grey cable patterned velour, heathered blue and yellow velours (inside out), and white fleece (I don't know how I got that, honest).
 Fluffy brown sweater knit with gold threads, blue ribbed sweater knit, peach sweater knit.
 White stretch velvet, pink velour, ecru velour.
 Tan floral stretch velvet and blue burn-out velour with purple vines running through it.
A couple of these have already been through the machine and become stuff; maybe one of these days I'll even have time to post about them!  Meanwhile, back to the year-end rat race.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

November Sewing

Well, there's nothing like being timely, is there?  But since I don't have the luxury of relaxation in December, timely will have to wait.

In mid-November, I found a piece of maroon velour, and decided that it would be just the thing for clothing to be worn in December, and beyond.

So I started with a long sleeved top.  Sadly, I don't have a lot of red-coordinated skirts, save black and white, so it won't be in the rotation much.  That's how thing go sometimes, right?

Then I made this two-colored dress, with the pink textured bodice.  Of course, since it's sleeveless, I needed a jacket to go with it, lined in a white poly knit.  Removable sleeves!  One of my greatest ideas, especially during holiday cooking season!

Then came a red over red dress, to be worn with the same jacket.  I'm thinking the red floral might make a good dress in its own right.  But that's an idea to be set aside for a while.

I also made a tank top to go with the "removable sleeves".  But I think my camera ate that picture.  That seems to happen.  And since I'm too lazy to go upstairs, find said top, and haul it downstairs for a picture, it'll remain anonymous.  Suffice it to say that, since I finished all of this during the two weekends before Thanksgiving, I felt very productive!

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Remote Elf!

So, today, Lou the mailman brought me a box with a note that said "Elfing Remotely, Love, Big."  It contained these:

I'm so lucky!  Jeff is a great son, and a great Remote Elf.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Garden Tuesday Visitor

My boys carved their Halloween pumpkins during the power outage, and they are still on my terrace.  At least, they're mostly there.  And they are attracting a tourist.

These pictures were taken from inside, of course, with a zoom lens, from about 30 feet away.  After snacking for a little while, the visitor got rather possessive about his find.

And, yes, you do notice in the background that our snow is all melted.  I'm not shedding any tears.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Drive-By Posting

It's been a busy week here, so no time to post anything.

I did think you'd all enjoy this picture which we received from an acquaintance:

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Garden Tuesday....On Wednesday

Look what we found when we woke up yesterday morning.  The first snow of the season dusted us with about 3".

 There's a lot of color to be seen in a snowscape, isn't there?

Remember Old Madison from this summer?  The old street running through my yard?  Well, maybe this makes it more evident that it was indeed once a toad.
 Looking skyward is good, too.

 And the sunrise through the snow covered trees this morning was pretty nice, too!
Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone, even though it's Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Well, another holiday in the books.  It was hectic, and enjoyable, as usual.

First, the obligatory picture of everyone in attendance:

That's right, I only fed 16 people this year.  2 who were expected didn't come, and 2 surprise guests did come.

Of course, you only came here to see the turkey.  Here's one of the two; the other looked about the same.

And here's the table, with people sitting down and getting ready to stuff themselves silly.  After all, what else would someone want to do on Thanksgiving?

Hope you all had as great a day!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Week Food, and the Meaning of Home

Because I'm just too lazy to type it, here's what's on the menu for Thanksgiving.

(click to biggify the lists, if you really want to read them).

As you can see, the planned Cranberry Pie became an Apple Pie (or, probably 2).  The recipe I tried this weekend didn't work out.  I'll try it again in a week or 3, adjust the sugar by a huge proportion, and then report it to you.  No sense wasting everyone's time during holiday preparations.

And here's what we're eating the rest of the week.  I don't go off the schedule here, because I'd then have to crawl under the table and hide, being unable to regain my bearings.

And, in case you wonder, here's the list of what the restaurant supply house will be bringing.  No frozen veggies this time; I just can't deal with them.

The Wall Street Journal reviewed a new book called The Meaning of Home this weekend.  In her opening paragraph, reviewer Elizabeth Lowry said, in part, "The idea of a house probably began with the roof...The medieval invention of the chimney, which replaced the simple oculus, or hole in the roof, that previously served to vent smoke from the domestic hearth, was arguably the next most important architectural innovation, followed closely  by the precursor of the modern floor...."

My parents moved a lot.  An absurdly large number of times, truth be told, for no reason.  So the only place I can consider "home" is this house.  And I want my children to forever think of this big white house when they speak of "home".  That's part of what Thanksgiving is all about: home, family, friends and food.

And, to answer Karin's question, I'm probably feeding 16 for Thanksgiving, although that could go as high as 19.  That's not too bad, by my standards.

And the Apple Sack Pie was from The United States of Pie Book, an omission pointed out by Karin.

So, tell me, what do you think of when you say "Home"?  And what does Thanksgiving mean to you?  My very best Thanksgiving wishes to all of you, even if I don't get back here for a week.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Apple Sack Pie

The manager at my restaurant supply house called me this morning to tell me that Thanksgiving is next week, so I'd be sure to get my order in.  Wasn't that nice of him?  Of course, that means you all should be planning, too!

I found this recipe in my United States of Pie book, and knew I had to try it.  Mostly, I had to try it because I knew it would drive Ryan nuts trying to figure out why on earth I was baking a paper bag.  It was indeed a lot of fun, and, naturally, everyone enjoyed apple pie.  So, if you're thinking of apple pie for Thanksgiving, this one would be a good choice: moist and juicy!


1 bottom crust (store bought or try my "Best Ever")

4 or 5 large apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cornstarch

Streusel topping:
1 stick butter or margarine, chopped in chunks
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Roll the crust out into a 9" pie plate (I used a 10" pie plate).  Peel and slice the apple, and stir gently with the rest of the filling ingredients.  Scoop into the pie plate.  In a mixing bowl, chop together the streusel ingredients, using a pastry cutter or 2 forks, until it forms pea sized grains.  Sprinkle evenly over the apple filling.  Place a brown grocery bag on a large baking tray, put the pie inside, fold down so it won't touch the rack above it, fold the bag closed and staple it closed.  Bake for 45 minutes, then remove from the oven and cut away the bag.  Return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so, until it's browned and the filling is bubbling.  Let it cool some before you cut it, or the filling will sag all over the place.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, as desired.

I know I took a picture of the bag in the oven, but I swear my camera ate it.  So the pie alone will have to suffice.

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Devil's Food Cake

In reading the Sunday papers, all of the so-called food experts (and why are they experts anyway?  Do they feed a dozen people every night?) say you should have one cake and 2 pies for Thanksgiving dinner.  I do believe that my hungry hordes would say that was way too meager a dessert selection, so I make much more, as you may have noticed.  Besides, dessert makes everyone ecstatic.  A great meal makes them happy, but everyone remembers dessert.

So, if you're going to just make one cake, my boys would respectfully suggest that this is the one you should choose.  I found it in the red plaid cookbook, and I've made it at least 493 times since July, in an effort to create the very best variation for you.


2 cups flour
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
6 tbsp milk powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup egg beaters or 2 eggs
1-1/2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350F.  Put all of the dry ingredients into a bowl, and stir with a wire whisk until the mixture is light tan.  (Side note: this has the same effect as sifting all of the dry ingredients together, without the bother of using the little turn-the-handle thingy.  Use this trick any time you have to sift stuff.  Another Marjie Time Saver.)  Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, beat at low speed until combined, then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour into a greased 13x9" pan or a bundt pan.  Bake the 13x9 for 35 to 38 minutes, or the bundt for 38 to 42 minutes.

(That's all that was left the next morning.  Should be testimony to its goodness.)

Important notes:  You can use regular sugar.  The confectioner's sugar gives it a finer grain.  Reduce the flour by 2 tbsp and add 2 tbsp cornstarch when using regular sugar if you want, but the boys really didn't notice.  If you don't have dry milk, you can replace the water with milk.  You can use eggs or egg beaters with the same texture result; 3 egg whites will make the cake a little stickier, but just as flavorful.  Lastly, the oil.  The recipe called for shortening.  Shortening makes a smoother cake, oil makes a flakier cake, butter or margarine makes the cake flakier and a little more flavorful.  The boys concluded oil gave it the best flavor and texture combination overall.

Cool the cake as per your usual procedure, then frost.  I like vanilla buttercream frosting best, but the boys are always clamoring for chocolate buttercream.  The choice is yours.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I'm Still Here!

Did you think I fell of the planet?  Sorry.  Here's a little of what's been going on.

Sewing:  I joined Faye's "Carnival of Skirts" challenge.  It was simple.  Make 2 skirts in the last 2 weeks of October.  Most skirts just take a couple of hours, so this should have been simple, right?  Um, sure.  I knew I had a piece of teal fabric which I'd bought in excess of 15 years ago at the old Wal-Mart.  You remember the old Wal-Mart here, right?  That's the one where they blasted out the hillside to put it in, and then boulders took up crashing down behind it.  And then they crashed onto the storeroom at the back of the store.  And then the corporate office sent in a couple of engineers 3 days before Christmas, who looked around and chased everyone out of the building at 2 in the afternoon, making them abandon their carts of stuff and everything.  Probably 4 or 5 years later they opened the current Wal-Mart; it's been here a good 10 years.  So, the fabric's been here a while.  Anyway, it was a 3 yard piece.  So I cut out an a-line skirt, from a new pattern I bought, McCalls 3341.  I didn't think it was a-line enough, nor was it truly straight, like a pencil skirt.  So I was somewhat disappointed, and my dearly beloved didn't like it as well as he likes most of my skirts.

Then I cut an old favorite, Simplicity 5914, out of the rest of the fabric.  Note the words "old favorite."  I knew I'd like it.  It made me feel better.

Then i fixed the neckline on the dress I'd made and worn on Mark's birthday.  I had bound the neckline, and hated how it turned out.  So I turned the binding under and stitched it in place.  This is the "before" picture; there's no after.

(That's a series of 3 pretty crappy looking pictures, isn't it?)

I also cut out dresses and a jacket from a 6 yard piece of maroon velour.  I started the jacket, and will probably finish everything Friday and Saturday, because I'm really excited about this project for some reason.  It's the first time in months something has caught my fancy, so I'll go for it. (Yes, I keep my mending and works in progress in a basket.  Otherwise, they'll migrate and overtake the entire house.)

We got up yesterday to maybe 1/2" of wet sloppy snow on the ground.  It was 60 degrees and sunny on Monday, so I went back to bed to hide from the signs of winter.  No picture.

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week already?  I'm spending lots of quality time with my pad and pencil, drafting up menus for the week and for the day.  I also need to put together an order to be placed on Monday for a food delivery Tuesday.  Recipes for cake and pie are coming soon, I promise.  I just need to get organized.

Lastly, I'm sending sympathy to Sue on her loss of Samba.  This is the second dog she's lost this year, and I know she's devastated; they are her children, and the joy of her life.

Hope you're all having a more orderly week than I am!  I'll try to return soon!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

No, you're not confused.  This is Friday.  Some weeks go like that.

by Paul Wornham

Johnston C. Thurwell was a billionaire businessman and philanthropist who owned an apartment in New York City and a huge lakefront mansion in upstate New York.  One snowy January day, he summoned each of his 3 children and 9 other people to his mansion, and sent limos for each of them.  Each of the children was greatly displeased to see the others, and the other people were perplexed as to why they were there, since they had believed they were summoned for a private meeting.

Once all of the attendees arrived, they were seated at a conference room table, in pre-assigned seats, and Thurwell's lawyer, William Bird opened the session.  They were told that Johnston Thurwell was dead, and they were there to settle upon their own inheritances.  The negotiations would begin the next day, and for each day that they did not reach consensus, they would lose 20% of the fortune to Thurwell's charity.  Thurwell had left sealed envelopes in his lawyer's safe, labeled as to what the lawyer should do in case of any contingency.

This is the only book this author has written, and it was wonderful.  I truly didn't know where the story was going as it progressed, but the backstories for each of the attendees were well developed, and everything made more and more sense as the story went along.  There were a few surprises, and it had a very satisfactory ending.  Although I would never have dreamed this up (and I'm not wealthy by any means),  I could absolutely see a wealthy man who didn't like most of the people around him very well setting up his will in this way.  And it made for a great read.

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's Election Day!

And we all went down to the polling place, the 4 voters and 2 observers, in a giant parade.

I was jealous at midnight when the 2 tiny towns in New Hampshire voted at midnight.  I wanted to vote at midnight.  Of course, those towns have a total of 47 voters, so it's much more reasonable that they would all show up at midnight than to think our approximately 1200 voters would all be as loony as me.

I'm making an Election Day Cake for dessert.  And we'll check in on the returns around 10 or so.

Hope you all voted in all of your best interests, and not just for one small aspect of each candidate's platform.  Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm Back From the Land of Darkness!

Monday was my little guy's 13th birthday.  My daughter decorated his cake.

The girls made us "Hurricane Hats" to ward off the storm.  It didn't work.

(I made that pink dress the weekend before, but wasn't pleased with the neckline.  It's in the "redo pile" now).

The kids went outside to dance in the warm wind around 11 PM.

But at 11:30, we lost power.  Someone forgot to tell the power company that we had our Hurricane Hats, and were safe from power outages.

This was the biggest damage we suffered: the loss of half of a pine tree.  There were lots of small branches down, 4 pickup truck loads, to be exact.  Gathering and burning them kept the boys occupied while we had no power.  We were not amused; to be exact, we were cold, grubby and cranky.

I did manage to keep myself calm by reading a book, Mary Stewart's Touch Not The Cat, by oil lamp.  I'm appalled that it took me 3 days to read a lousy 300 page book.

But the power did come back on Wednesday night; the neighbors across our back fence still have no electricity, and have been told not to expect lights before 11PM Sunday.  And the cursed storm really didn't even hit here!  I want a generator for Christmas.

Happy Weekending, everyone!