Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Inside Herbs

For Christmas, I started chives, mint and purple basil plants for one of my daughters. Of course, I started them about 5 days before Christmas, so I just gave her pots of dirt. But she put them on a sunny windowsill, and she's got actual wee plants now.

So I decided to bring some summertime into my kitchen with the same herbs. Planted 3 weeks ago, they really show no progress.

Except for this one itty bitty purple basil sprout! Maybe with the days getting a little longer, they will all get enough light from my north-facing kitchen window to start growing.

Oh, and the problem with the pencils? The eraser caps can be detached if pulled hard enough, and so the poor little high school children might try to swallow them, and choke. (I think if you're trying to eat an eraser at 18 years of age, you have bigger issues than pencils.)

Happy Indoor Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Miscellany

It was a quiet weekend here; no snow (Katie is taking good care of it in Utah), little sewing, a little house cleaning, just a normal weekend.

I did rearrange my windowsill to better accomodate these pretty "measuring cups" my daughter bought me for Christmas. I couldn't bear to stuff them in a cupboard. And they look great next to the little blue teapot she bought me for my birthday a few years back.
In absurd news, do you remember these?

Ryan came home from High School with a notice that he can no longer use "My First Ticonderoga" pencils in school because they are dangerous. I'm not kidding. These pencils are dangerous to people ages 14 to 18. The smaller ones are not.
Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Addictive Oatmeal Cookies

Yes, my dearly beloved called these addictive. I am afraid that means I'll have to make them again, possibly this weekend, despite my aversion to making cookies.

These were adapted from the red plaid cookbook, and made to be cholesterol free, but I'll put in parenthesis how to make them full fat and undoubtedly just as tasty, in case cholesterol matters not a whit to you, as it didn't to me just a few short months ago!


3/4 cup (1-1/2 stick) margarine (or butter)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1-3/4 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats (quick or regular)
1/4 cup egg beaters (or 1 egg)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves

Cream the margarine with the brown sugar. Add the white sugar, 1 cup flour and 1 cup oats, and beat until combined. Add all of the remaining ingredients, and beat until combined - the dough will be very stiff. Drop by teaspoonsful onto prepared baking sheets (I line mine with waxed paper, then spread a few drops of oil on the paper, and cleanup is a breeze). Bake at 375F for 10 to 12 minutes in a conventional oven, or 350F for 8 to 10 minutes in a convection oven. Makes about 4 dozen (46, to be exact).
There were 7 cookies left this morning, out of that 46, and my dearly beloved happily snagged them for his breakfast. I think that's a testimonial as to how addictive he found them!

It's supposed to rain all weekend, so I'll be happily hibernating. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"What Do Dogs Tell Us?"

I got this magazine in the mail today. Biggify the picture; it's worth it.I believe that what this poor dog tells us is, "Don't make your dog a laughing stock at the dog park. Let him have a normal hairdo."

Or maybe, "Dogs need hugs, not hairdos."
Happy Thorsday, everyone, in memory of our boy, who's been gone 5 months.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Soft White Rolls

Have you ever tried this product?
I hadn't. But you probably remember that my second daughter (6th child) is in her final semester of nursing school. And she's been harassing me big-time about her darling Daddy's cholesterol being borderline high, and I NEED to do SOMETHING about it NOW. Yes, it can be pretty loud around here when she's banging the healthy eating bandwagon (as if we glom down the ring-dings and big-macs around here)!

So when I needed to make rolls for dinner and sandwiches the other night, I went to an old cookbook called Foods From Famous Kitchens. In the Red Star yeast section is a recipe for wonderful, soft bread and rolls. A little adaptation, and I had these wonderful....


1-1/2 cups warm water
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast*
4 to 5 cups white flour
2 tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp margarine, softened, cut in small pieces (replaces butter)
1/4 cup Egg Beaters (replaces 1 egg)
4 tsp gluten powder

Pour the water in your mixing bowl or bread machine container. Sprinkle on the yeast, then add the remaining ingredients in the order given (melt the margarine/butter if you're using a mixer or wooden spoon instead of a bread machine). Mix according to my directions to the right, let rise 10 minutes, and punch down. If you use just 4 cups of flour, you will have to pour the batter into greased muffin cups and let them rise. I added a 5th cup of flour, which made a very soft and pliable dough. I then split the dough into 16 pieces, rolled each into a ball, and flattened on my waxed paper lined, greased baking sheet. Let the rolls rise until about doubled in size (about 20 m
inutes for 6 tsp yeast, and about an hour for 3 tsp yeast), then bake at 375F for 20 to 25 minutes, or at 375F in the convection oven for about 13 to 15 minutes, until the desired degree of brownness is achieved.

No one suspected these rolls were anything other than soft and wonderful, so this is a sneaky trick I'll be trying again soon.

Also, last night, I made brownies using egg whites instead of whole eggs. They were a little fluffier than usual, but tasted the same. I suggest you try the same deception if you want your brownies just a little better for you and equally delicious!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Want To See My Snow?

So do my boys. The 6" of snow we had on Saturday morning melted yesterday. So I give you this instead. It's my side yard today.

If you find my snow, send a picture of it for the boys. I don't actually need the snow.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Oat Wheat Rolls

This recipe was adapted from an Oat Bread recipe given to me by Mickle's Dad in New Zealand. My dearly beloved is forever scolding me for being "bored" with foods, and changing them somewhat, but I point out to him that this is his cross to bear with me. Poor dear, he's a good soldier, never complaining about being fed strange and different things. You can tell his life is really hard, right?


1-1/2 cups warm water
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast
3 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats (regular or fast)
4 tsp milk powder
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the water in your bowl or bread machine container, add the rest of the ingredients and proceed as my tutorial on the right suggests. Knead, let the dough rise for 15 m
inutes, punch down and split into 16 even pieces. Roll each into a nice ball, flatten on a greased baking sheet (I line mine with waxed paper and then grease the paper, for easy cleanup), and let them rise until doubled in size (about 20 minutes for 6 tsp yeast, about an hour for 3 tsp yeast). Put in a conventional oven at 375F for 18 to 20 minutes, or the convection oven at 350F for 14 to 17 minutes, until the desired degree of brown is reached. You'll notice, of course, that my rolls have flour clinging to them, because I don't brush them with liquid after I've formed the rolls. That's because I like a soft roll, not one with a hard crust on it. It's personal preference; you can brush yours with warm milk or melted butter, if you wish.

These also made good sandwiches for lunch the next day. I split the rolls i
n half and buttered them, ran them under the broiler for a minute, removed them, put tomatoes, cheese and meat (roast beef, in this case) on the two halves of each roll, and put them back under the broiler. Note that my new broilers have adjustable temperature controls, so I dialed the temperature back to 400F. You might have to drop your top shelf by one unit so the rolls don't scorch before the cheese starts to melt. An orange is a good accompaniment to the sandwich, by the way!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Visiting Dog on Thorsday

You all remember that I got new stoves in December, right? And new refrigerators about a year ago? And a new dishwasher? Well, all of the replaced, but working, appliances were stored on my porch. And a friend who lives about an hour north was amongst hundreds or even thousands of families who suffered flooding last September. So we told our friend to rent a truck and come get these appliances for his own house, and for friends of his who suffered damage. The friend brought his dog along for the ride.

Here's my little guy, making friends with Dakota, using dog cookies. The way to a dog's heart is through his stomach, after all!

And then off the new friends went for a walk. That's the other way to a dog's heart, right?

Of course, Dakota is a very peppy dog, not like Thor, so he couldn't be allowed to romp off-leash. The front gate was open and he would have raced down the road to who-knows-where, and never found his way back, since he lives 60 miles away.
Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review!

I think a lot of good writers from a generation or 2 ago have been forgotten. There are plenty of books in my library which are not considered "classics", and yet are very good reads. This is one of them.

Alistair Maclean
copyright 1966; 250 pages

"The Peacemaker Colt has now been in production, without change in design, for a century." This first sentence, followed by a description of the Peacemaker's destructive capabilities, as our narrator looks down the barrel of one, it is an exciting introduction to a fast-paced story of modern piracy off the coast of Scotland.

Ships containing valuable cargo - gold bullion - have been disapp
earing, and the British Secret Service has sent a small crew disguised as a surveying crew to discover why. The plot twists and turns, people on both sides of the action are killed off, and Mr. Maclean keeps his readers hooked from the first page to the last. At 250 pages, it's a fast read.

I thought this book would make an excellent movie, but I'm too late. While checking Amazon to ascertain that it's still in print (and it is!), I discovered that it was made into a movie 40 years ago. No matter. Hollywood, are you listening? Remake this movie. Don't put the CGI and unrealistic action into it. Just tell the story, because it's a good one. Meanwhile, you should all read this book. It's a fine expenditure of time!

(And I took a picture of the book, but misplaced it, so here's another picture of a tree.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Trees

This is all the snow we had last weekend. Note that I'm not crying over this, although my little boys are.

The line of trees is the west side of an old town road, which was moved about 100 years ago. The short one has been decimated by carpenter ants, and will probably have to come down, but we'll replace it with another. I'd like to keep the old road memorialized.

And I love looking up at trees in winter. The bare branches against the sky are so pretty!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Carrot Cake

Who doesn't love carrot cake? Family members love it because it's delicious, and we Moms love it because it sneaks lots of veggies and so forth into the kids and hubby. Really, it's a win-win. I tweaked this recipe a little to make it a tiny bit healthier (but not much).


1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups shredded carrot
1/2 cup chopped walnut

In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, powder, soda, salt and cinnamon with a wire whisk. Add the eggs, vanilla and oil, and beat for 30 seconds to combine, then 2 minutes until smooth. Stir in the shredded carrot and walnuts. Turn into two greased layer cake pans, and bake at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes, then remove from the pan to a cooling rack.
When completely cooled, frost with:


8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups confectioner's sugar

Beat until smooth; you might need up to 1 cup more powdered sugar to give the frosting enough body. Enough for filling and frosting one cake.

This is a very filling cake with a very rich frosting. It actually lasted 2 days, which is some kind of record in our house. It's not that everyone didn't love it; they just took small slices because it was so filling. That's a bonus in my book.

Next time, I'll be trying it with egg substitute, to see how it tastes. I'll also be baking it in a 13"x9" pan, because I really hate fussing with layers. Picky, picky, picky, right?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Of Dresses

So, what do you do when you need a gown for a "Black Tie Dinner"? Do you go shopping, or do you call your mother and beg her to dye a tan dress she bought you 5 years ago and ship it to you?

Yeah, my attorney daughter did the latter. On Wednesday night. For a Black Tie Attorney thing on Friday night.

And the dress came out really pretty, didn't it? I also sent her a dress of mine from a long time ago. She wore my dress, because hers wasn't quite long enough with the 4" heels she wanted to wear.

And I made myself a princess seamed sleeveless dress with a cardigan from some lightweight sweater fabric I found in my stash before Thanksgiving. It was marked as being 2.5 yards for 50 cents per yard, and I figured out why when I washed it: There was a run 2" off center down the whole length of the piece. I figured out how to work around it anyway.

There was also enough for a long sleeved top. I'm really pleased with this $1.25 investment from probably 10 years ago!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy Birthday...

...to my dearly beloved.

You're the best thing that ever happened to me!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lemon Sponge Cake

My dearly beloved simply adores sponge cake, especially lemon sponge cake. I decided last night to make it "lower" cholesterol (that's not "no" cholesterol, just a little healthier). So here's the new recipe I came up with. It was all gone by noon, so I'm thinking it was a pretty big success!

Lower Cholesterol Version

4 egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon extract
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp water
minced rind from one orange

Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar , and beat until foamy; add the lemon extract and 1/2 cup sugar, and beat until very stiff. Set aside. Beat the egg yolks until light colored and fluffy, add the remaining sugar, salt and water, and beat for about 30 seconds. Stir together the flour and baking powder; add them to the egg yolk mixture along with the lemon juice, and beat until well combined. Beat in half of the egg whites and orange rind, and then fold in the remaining egg whites. Bake in a well greased Bundt pan at 325F for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake tests done. Cool about 10 minutes, then turn out of the pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when the cake is cool.

It's not a very big cake, but it packs a lot of flavor. Best of all, no one noticed that I'd cut the egg yolk content down!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Clouds

Since we don't have any snow, I thought you might like to see the clouds in our sky yesterday afternoon:

Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sweet Potato Muffins

So, we've been told to eat less cholesterol, less sugar, blah, blah, blah. I've been working on this for a while, now, and it's just plain not as easy as it would seem.

with all that in mind, I decided to use up some leftover sweet potatoes from the fridge to make some muffins. These were good, although some of the kids commented that they could've been a little bit sweeter. Next time, I think I'd add 2 tablespoons of white sugar to the batter.

1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp powdered milk
4 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup mashed, seasoned sweet potatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Stir together the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients, including the swe
et potatoes, and stir until well combined. Stir in the nuts, then spoon into greased or paper lined muffin tins. sprinkle more chopped nuts on the top of the unbaked muffins, along with about 1/4 teaspoon of white sugar. Bake 14 to 18 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool slightly before serving.

Despite the comments of these work quite sweet enough (my daughter specifically said they tasted more like bread than muffins), the two dozen I made were gone the next morning. I think that's a pretty good review.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A little sewing, and few pictures

During the week after Christmas, my lawyer daughter and I worked on a couple of projects for her.

When I went fabric shopping in Philadelphia with GMarie, my daughter and her roommate, an avid and very accomplished seamstress, went along. I bought my daughter a couple of pieces of wool, some lining, some buttons, and so forth. She brought some of those home for Christmas, and we worked on her projects during the "off" week.

The first was a brown suit. It was a very fluid chocolate brown wool, with a dark gold lining. I took pictures of her in this suit, but they mystically disappeared from my camera. So, here's the sketch from Simplicity pattern 4885, circa 2004. We didn't put the ruffles on the jacket sleeves, and we used a 3" deep flounce on the skirt, instead of 6" deep as illustrated. It looked quite nice.

The second was this black and white checked, high waisted skirt. It's lined in grey. It's Vogue 8425. The biggest problem we had is that the waistband is 6" high, and not tapered from top to bottom. So, after the skirt was done, it fit everywhere except at the top of the waist. Being her father's daughter, she took it off, tossed it in a corner and vowed never to revisit it. Being a stubborn old goat who never quits, I ripped out the top half of the zipper, tapered the waistband in, and reinstalled the zipper. I did, however, refuse to hand sew on the decorative buttons on the front, so those are just waiting for my daughter to finish them.
I have a white sweater knit sitting on the dining room table, waiting to be cut, maybe into a V1250 and matching cardigan, but I just haven't felt like sewing for myself. Maybe this weekend, after a nice, long soak in a hot tub tonight. Or maybe I'll just read. But not on the Kindle. I have a feeling that steaming your Kindle would not be the best idea in the world. That's OK, because there's a full length novel, Josephine Tey's The Franchise Affair, waiting for me in my mystery anthology.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review and a New Toy

The week before Christmas, I had to take my little guy for an orthodontist appointment. So, of course I went to my personal library for book to read while I waited. I selected an anthology called Ten Great Mysteries published in 1959. Since the first book in the anthology was the Maltese falcon, I figured it would be a good collection. I wasn't disappointed. The first story, which was 20 pages long, was another Lord Peter Whimsy story (Remember The Nine Tailors?). This one involved Lord Peter taking his nephew to a bookstore, where his nephew what an old book. The bad guy, a good guy, a treasure map and a hidden treasure were all involved in this great little story. Next up was The Case of the Crying Swallow, a Perry Mason story 45 pages long. An Agatha Christie story that didn't follow her usual pattern was highly entertaining. And who knew that Nero Wolfe had a dog as a child in Montenegro, or that Labs have large skulls, and therefore are highly intelligent dogs? Die Like a Dog (44 pages) told me all of that. The last story I've read was an Ellery Queen story. My grandfather had "Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine" around his house when I was small, but I never read it, and, indeed, have no idea if it was even a current publication back then. But this story, The President's Half Disme, involving George Washington, a grove of trees and a buried coin, reminded me of those publications from so long ago.

Having a collection of short stories and a short novel to read during Christmas week was very good for me, because I could go sit in a corner for 15 to 30 minutes, decompress, and have the satisfaction of a story finished, and emerge from my corner much more cheerful.

So, imagine my shock when, a couple of days after Christmas, the UPS man brought me a present from a business associate:
Yep, it's a Kindle Fire. So I went online and downloaded a dozen or so free books, so I could try this new toy out. Here's the first one I read:

Letters of a Woman Homesteader
Elinore Pruitt Stewart
copyright 1914
102 pages in print - free for Kindle

This is my kind of book. It's the story of a young widowed mother who moved from Oklahoma to Denver, and then, deciding that life "in service" was good for neither her nor her toddler daughter, moved to Wyoming in 1909 to claim her own homestead. This is the story, told via her letters to a friend in Denver, of how she claimed her homestead, the people she met, and how she was able to make the land work for her. There are funny lines, such as her being told that there are 3 seasons in Wyoming: winter, July and August. There are stories of weddings, births, reunions and deaths. It's a cheerful story about life in a hard time and place. At the end, Elinore proudly reports to her friend that she's proof that a woman can successfully claim her 160 acres and support herself, pointing to, among other things, her harvest of 2 tons of potatoes and a ton of carrots. It is a nice story, and one which should make us all grateful for our blessings in life, no matter how hard life is at any time (at least we don't have to heat up rocks and toss them in the bottom of our sleighs to keep us warm when we travel in the winter)!

Now, all of these stories would have been better with my reading companion, but the memory of our boy helping us read does still make me smile.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tuna Melt

Bet you all thought I forgot how to cook, right? Well, not really. But I feel like I've been on autopilot of late.

Anyway, for lunch of late we've been having tuna melts. This particular lunch was on my French Bread, toasted under the broiler at 350F (my new stoves have adjustable broilers - wowsers!) for a minute, then tuna, tomato and mozzarella placed on it, and returned to the broiler for 3 minutes. The worst thing my dearly beloved could think of to say was that his sandwich was "too fat".

And have any of you tried the new Kraft mayonnaise with olive oil and much less fat? It tastes just like regular mayonnaise. I do recommend it. And if anyone from Kraft is reading, you're welcome.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Deer

The deer wee all over the place on Christmas. Look at the herd of them! There were 7. And they were attacking some of my new trees. I was not amused. I drove my Suburban down the lawn honking the horn like a lunatic to chase them away. It's a wonder the neighbors didn't call the authorities to throw a net over me.

Anyway, here's hoping for a 2012 with fewer deer invading the garden!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday Miscellany

We had a few critters here for Christmas, but none who could romp in the wrapping paper.

Of course, there was Doug the fish. Mark bought him that penguin so he'd have company. I don't know that fish require company, but Mark was pretty insistent.
Shannon brought her birds. The grey one is Mortimer; he's blind in one eye, not too bright, and likes to sit on the floor of his cage. The yellow one is Marley, and she's a real crank sometimes. Still, the cheerful chirping was nice.

Kellie was going to bring her roommate's cat, Arthur, home for Christmas, because Arthur couldn't go to the roommate's house, but thought the better of it when she realized that other pets who are traditional snack food for cats were already here. So Arthur stayed with the next door neighbor instead. (I was a little disappointed. I like cats.)

And Cass' boyfriend was a great guy with my little boys. He led afternoons full of board games; here, they're on about the 47th round of Clue. When partners were required, he always partnered with my little guy, so the little guy would have a chance against all the older players. I think he had a pretty good time.

Lawyer daughter is back in Philly, opening her very own office, already having a little referral work. The boys have all returned to their respective jobs. But Cass and Kellie are home for a couple more weeks, so the house isn't silent....yet....

And, I see that I have follower #130! Thank you so very much!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

The big kids all went somewhere, but the little guys helped me prepare their favorite kind of feast: an informal one.

BBQ chicken, breaded chicken tenders (baked, not fried), egg rolls and spring rolls (store bought), taquitos and quesadillas. They were pretty pleased.

Happy New Year, everyone; I wish you love, health, happiness and good fortune in 2012.