Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

Today's book is a Kindle selection. I got this for free, but if it's the first in a series of books, I'd surely enjoy reading others!

Brett Battles

Jake Oliver is a 22 year old rookie cop in Phoenix, on patrol with his partner one night, when they answered a call to a barn fire.

Durrie is a "cleaner" on a team of 6 men sent to terminate someone, set up around the barn. An extra person turned up with the target, and also needed to be terminated. The extra body was covered up by the barn fire, and everything was removed from the scene as the team left.

Senior detectives at the scene of the fire were fairly well convinced that the fire was simply an accidental blaze started by kids, but Oliver noted marks in the dirt, which could have been made by a cable. The next day, he found a matchbook left behind by the killer. These two things caused Jake Oliver to start a hunt to find the killer or killers, causing his suspension from the Phoenix PD, and a change in his life which would have been unimaginable when he left his home in Minnesota just a year earlier.

This book was well written, engaging and exciting. I'm looking forward to finding more books written by Brett Battles.

I should, however, mention another book I started, if only to warn you that you should NOT even bother with this book. One Hundred Open Houses by Consuelo Saah Baehr was so boring that I quit after 11% of the book. I just couldn't bring myself to care. It was about a woman who lives in one of the outer boroughs of New York City, or maybe on Long Island, who starts going to open houses in the city, and musing about the houses she sees, and connections she has or might have to them. Let me give you an example.

The dark brick Tudor style house sat on the Main Line's main thoroughfare, perched atop a grassy lawn, and shaded by magnificent trees. The overall impression outside was that the house was dark, very dark. Inside, the halls were nice, but the floors squeaked mercilessly. After walking around for a couple of minutes, my husband said to Jack, the realtor, "We're not interested. This house has termites." When Jack questioned this statement, my beloved bounced on the floor in several locations in the kitchen and hallway, pointed out a couple of obvious (to him) signs, and said, "This is termite damage. I can't fix this house."

That's the true story of what we came to call The Termite Tudor, and a damn sight more interesting than any anecdote in this book, since the protagonist is walking alone into open houses and conversing with no one.
I never quit less than 1/4 of the way through any book, because I don't feel I gave it a fair shake if I do, but I made an exception for this one. Seriously, even if you find it for free on your Kindle, as I did, don't bother. You'll be mad at yourself for wasting your time.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Giant Ginger Cookies

Between summers during college, Dan worked for a guy named Jim, a small time builder hereabouts. One day, Dan came home with a recipe card. Turned out that the previous day, Jim had some cookies his sister had made, and Dan liked them so much that he requested that Jim's sister write down the recipe, so I could make them for Dan (and presumably the rest of the family, although Dan would share only grudgingly). I made them a number of times that summer and the next, but this recipe slipped my mind for a few years...until last Thursday night.


1/2 cup margarine
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup egg beaters (or 1 egg)
1/4 cup molasses
2-1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cloves
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger

Stir together the dry ingredients and set aside. Beat together the margarine and shortening until well combined, then add the sugar and beat until creamy. Add the egg beaters or egg and molasses, and beat until smooth. Beat in the dry ingredients, half at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Drop onto greased cookie sheets by large spoonsful (I u
sed my large cookie scoop, which is 3 tbsp), and bake at 350F for 13 to 14 minutes in a convection oven, or 16 to 19 in a regular oven. Makes 18 to 24 cookies depending upon the size.

These cookies are huge. Dan and Ryan each "only" ate 2 for dessert on Thursday. But, trust me, they were gone by sundown Friday. They are just that good.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Cold Flowers

"For one swallow does not make spring, nor yet one fine day."
Aristotle said that. He must have known that this spring was coming. We had a week of fine days last week, with highs around 70 every day. So my rhododendron decided on Sunday to start blooming. Yesterday's high was 37, and here's what the poor flowers looked like this morning, when it was 24 degrees:

(don't mind the dirt on the outside of my windows. Even if I washed them, they'd be dirty again as soon as it rained again.)

Happy cold garden Tuesday, everyone!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Frustration and The Book

First, let's get to Bear Island. I would have sent it to Monica, since she's from that general neighborhood and a fan of MacLean, but I can't get to the post office to mail it, and $75 for UPS service seemed positively outrageous. I'd have sent it to Chan after her kind compliment that I've never steered her wrong with a book, but I wanted to send it to a brand new commenter, Tami, who has relatives up in the Arctic Circle. Tami, I've already contacted you, and I do hope you're going to enjoy this book.

It was sunny and 70 all week, and I wanted to make a dress from a bright floral print I bought in Philly with GMarie and my daughter. Of course, this being the tempermental Northeastern US, I know full right and well that just because it's warm doesn't mean the cold weather is over. So I settled on a fluffy, long sleeved dress, cut and started sewing.

Oh, my aching (expletive deleted). My White serger decided it didn't want to cooperate. So it needs to go to the repair shop. Then, to top it off, my trusty Singer decided to take up breaking thread and skipping stitches - lots and lots of stitches - for the second time in 6 months. So here's where I was on what should be a 3 to 4 hour dress, after spending all day Saturday either working on it or the machines, or stomping around using lots of HBO words in frustration.

Yep. Sleeves pinned in and going nowhere in a hurry.

Then I remembered that the backup Singer I bought on sale from Target for $65 four or five years ago works. It's slow, but it works. So I drafted it to finish the dress. I still need a hem, so there's no finished picture. But the fabric and dress can be a story for another day, after all.

NOW. For any of you out there who sew, I have questions. Is it normal for a sewing machine to only last 9 years, even with gentle and loving use only on the weekends?

And, my dearly beloved, during one of my HBO-word tirades, said to me, "What's the Rolls Royce of sewing machines, and why don't you have one?" Can anyone tell me that?

See, I'm just not that enamored of getting new equipment just for the sake of having something new. Once I learn to use something, I want to use that one forever, confident in the knowledge that I understand it. (Remember? I"m the one whose "new" car is from 1995!)

So....if you know about sewing machines, please, Help!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A little sewing

Last fall, I ordered 3 yards or so of a turquoise knit for $1 per yard. Yes, I love clearance fabrics. I feel as if it's not much of a loss if I don't love them when I get my hands on them and feel them and see the colors for real. Well, that piece of fabric showed up, along with a second piece of about the same size, and a note saying that the pieces were soiled. And then it got too chilly to consider using lightweight fabric, so into the fabric collection it went.

Fast forward to about 2 weeks ago, when I really wanted to try out one of my new patterns from the Vogue sale, and wanted to use that nice turquoise color. So, into the washer with double detergent (twice), and, lo and behold, no soiling! Hooray!

So here's the first V8764, in that turquoise fabric. I made one with short sleeves from a non-stretchy tan fabric I got when I was in Philly with GMarie, but haven't worn it yet, so don't have any pictures.

Happy weekending, everyone, and if you want the book from yesterday's post, don't forget to tell me!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

By Alistair MacLean

Bear Island is located at 74 degrees, 28 minutes North, 19 degrees, 13 minutes East. It's dark there most of the year. So why anyone would want to go there is beyond me. Yet, in this book, a movie cast, including actors and directors, is headed to Bear Island aboard a small ship, with the ship's crew and doctor aboard. Suddenly, people start dying, seemingly of natural causes, although the doctor is suspicious. After they reach Bear Island, more people die, one disappears, and the doctor and a crew member set off in search of the missing man.

So, what's going on here? Is the doctor really a doctor, or is he something else? Why have they gone to this dark, desolate place? And why are people being bumped off?

I looked on Google Earth, and Bear Island does turn up. Some lunatic actually went there and took photographs, and posted them online. It looks very much like the illustration on the front cover of the book, and fits with the descriptions of Bear Island in this book. I really have
no idea why anyone would want to go there, but someone must have for Mr. MacLean to have such good descriptions in this book. While this wasn't my favorite book, it wasn't bad. I'd say it's worth 3 stars out of 5.
So, now for the surprise: Somehow, I've ended up buying 2 copies of this book. So I'll send it to one of you! It's sort of a "Happy Spring" present. Leave me a comment telling me why you want this book (even if it's "Just Because"). Maybe I'll choose the best comment, or maybe I'll use a hat, or a random number generator, or maybe I'll just pretend I'm still 8 years old and say, "Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe!"

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Garden Tuesday on Wednesday

It rained off and on Monday and Tuesday. Today we had a peek of sun, and my yard suddenly turned green:

It's green out the side door, too:

And the forsythia are starting to bloom.
Now I hope it doesn't snow on our sorry butts.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Berry Cobler

Last week, I decided to make a low sugar berry cobbler. There was no special reason other than I wanted it. I'd have to say it was a great idea.


About 6 cups frozen (or fresh) blackberry, raspberry and blueberry mix
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp softened margarine or butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 c. egg beaters (or one egg)
milk - 1/4 cup or less

Spread the berries in an 8"x8" or 7"x11" baking dish; stir in the cornstarch, 1/2 c. sugar and water. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, margarine, salt, sugar and egg beater. Stir to combine, then add milk to make the batter fluid. Spoon the batter over the berry mixture, then bake at 350F for about 40 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and the berry mixture is bubbling. Let it cool for a while before serving, then serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

This cobbler went so fast that I got no pictures. Not a one. So I'm guessing the guys really enjoyed it.

So, instead of a picture of the cobbler, how about a picture of the apron I made for the relative in Denver?
My second daughter selected the fabric, because she thought it was funny, after the recipient requested an apron. That was back at Thanksgiving. So I'm thinking I was overdue to get this one done. I hope she enjoys it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

Today's book was a Kindle free book, and particularly appropriate given yesterday's announcement by Encyclopedia Brittanica that they're no longer going to publish their volumes in paper! (To me, that's sad. I do actually have an Encyclopedia Brittanica, along with several others, and I love them. You can open any volume and find something interesting to read in a short time. Try doing that with an electronic encyclopedia. I can't even figure out how to use the free dictionary that came with my Kindle.)

by Amy Stewart

Everyone in America has a Gizmo. Your Gizmo is your phone, and your music player, and your internet connection, and your e-reader all in one. Lewis and Emily have Gizmos. When they're going on vacation, they download books to read on the Gizmo, but, like almost everyone, they never get more than a few paragraphs into their books. There's just too much else to see, read, hear and do on the Gizmo. Tomes of 100,000 to 125,000 words are just obsolete! And books printed on paper? They're only decorator items these days, or maybe something you give to Granny as a reminder of "The Good Old Days."

Life in the San Francisco Bay area is just dandy for Lewis and Emily. Oh, Emily would like to move out of their 2 bedroom condo and into a place in the city, even though it would have to be much smaller to fit in their budget, but they both have good jobs, and they have a nice life. Then, one morning, Lewis receives a phone call from a lawyer, informing him that his Uncle Sy has died, and left Lewis The Firebreathing Dragon in Eureka, one of the last 8 bookstores left in America. So, amidst great protest from Emily, they pack for a vacation and drive to Eureka.

Lewis had spent a summer with his Uncle Sy when he was a kid, and has fond memories of Uncle Sy and the bookstore. Sure enough, the bookstore, located in a former carriage and buggy store, looks pretty much the same, although messier; Uncle Sy's house is a big mess. When Lewis finds an accounting ledger indicating that the bookstore made 1.2 million dollars the previous year, he becomes quite determined to continue running it, cleaning up and organizing the store and house over Emily's great protests. There are a few questions that Lewis never bothers to ask, such as, how can this store survive selling the same books over and over, what's Sy's girlfriend doing in her hidden garden on Sy's property, why is an executive from a tobacco company snooping around Eureka and, more specifically, The Firebreathing Dragon, and, ultimately, why does Maxine
Rogers, president of the company that makes The Gizmo, take an interest in the store?

This book was written by a lady who owns a bookstore in Eureka, and her descriptions of the town, its waterfront and scenery are great. It's a fun read, and not all that farfetched. Even though it's no longer free, I think everyone would enjoy this book.

So, Happy Thorsday, everyone, and happy reading!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's Pi Day!

Yes, I'm being an annoying mathematically gifted person again today. But when your math is combined with pie, what's not to love? It's March 14, or 3.14 as it's often written outside the US.

So, go ahead, celebrate, because you know you want to! Will you celebrate with pizza pie?

How about Lemon Chess pie?
Or French Market Pie?

As for me? I'm going with Strawberry Chiffon Pie. It's pretty low carb (not low cholesterol, but no one's perfect), and pretty, too!
So, tell me, how are you celebrating Pi Day?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March Sunshine

It was sunny and 65 today. It doesn't look like spring yet, but the green is coming.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I'm So Lucky...

...that my dearly beloved has been willing to put up with me for all these decades.

Happy Anniversary, my beloved; you have given me a wonderful life.

Monday, March 5, 2012

February Sewing

Well, sewing in February was pretty slow. I made a sleeveless princess seamed dress trimmed in matching lace, a cami and a jacket from that robin's egg blue velour. I know I took pictures, but can't find them anywhere. So, no pictures.

Then, to get myself enthused, I made a skirt from the remainder of the black and white fabric my daughter and I used to make that high waisted skirt back during Christmas vacation. I used the flounced skirt pattern, and think it came out nice! She was very excited when my box arrived. So that made me feel good.

I cut out a dress from a dark olive green sweater knit, but haven't done much with it. It was sunny and 55 on Saturday, so I didn't want to play with the sweater fabric I'd selected the previous weekend, when it was snowing.

Meanwhile, I joined "Club BVM" and bought a few patterns from them. The Pippa dress (bottom left) is just because I know I'll want it some day, but I have just the right fabric chosen for the one two over from it, shown in orange. That will be next weekend's project, and maybe I'll feel like sewing again with new patterns surrounding me!
Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

About Cats

My friend Pam at Sidewalk Shoes is hosting Weekend Cat Blogging this week. And while I haven't had a cat in a number of years, one of my sons has a nice pudgy cat named Winston. Winston comes to visit. But since he's an indoor cat, and rather, um, reticent (nicer than cowardly, right?), when he goes outside, he has to wear a collar and leash. That getup doesn't thrill him, as you can see. But he did enjoy attacking some of my greenery outdoors during his last visit.
And I read a cute short book on the Kindle, which goes along with Weekend Cat Blogging:

by Bentley Dadmun c. 2010

Harry Neal is a retired college professor who lives on a boat in the middle of a hardwood grove located on a farm occupied by retirees, with his cat, named Cat. You have to love a book which gets no more than one page before Harry says, "If I were so foolhardy as to put applesauce or a granola bar in Cat's hallowed dish, I'd get a look that could fry rocks...."

So off Harry goes, with Cat in a sling across his chest, to obtain dinner for himself and Cat at the Senior Center located in the barn. While sitting in front of the fire, observing old tools hung over the fireplace, Harry noticed that one tool, a hatchet, was neither old nor nice, and, upon closer examination, discovered a bone fragment in its handle. This leads to a chase around town (on his bicycle, with Cat in tow) to learn more about the bone and its origins.

This was a nice, easy read, made more enjoyable by the presence of Cat. Perfect for a rainy afternoon. I'd recommend it to anyone who doesn't require lots of action in a book, and wants a quick piece of entertainment.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Crispy White Rolls

I wanted to try a different kind of roll for dinner last night (and therefore, for lunches today). This recipe is adapted from my Bread Cookbook written by Farmer's Wives, purchased at a used book store quite some years ago. The rolls had a nice, crunchy crust, despite the fact that I blatantly disregarded the instruction to brush the tops of them with egg white, and the insides were soft and tasty.


1-1/4 cups warm water (approx 100F)
1 tbsp or 2 tbsp yeast
4 cups flour
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp margarine, softened and cut into small pieces
2 egg whites, beaten stiff

Pour the water into your bread machine container or mixing bowl, and sprinkle the yeast over it (use 2 tbsp if you need the rolls to be done very quickly, or 1 tbsp if you have more time to let them rise). Add the flour, sugar, salt and margarine, and begin mixing together. When th
e ingredients are just combined, add the egg whites; let the bread machine go through its mixing cycle, or knead by hand or using a Kitchenaid for about 10 minutes. Let rise 10 to 20 minutes, punch down and turn onto a floured surface. Divide into 16 pieces, form into balls, place on greased baking sheets, and flatten each with your palm. Brush the surfaces with water or egg white, if desired, and let rise until approximately doubled in size. Bake at 375F or 350F in a convection oven for 14 to 18 minutes, until the desired degree of brownness is achieved. Serve warm.

They make great sandwiches, too, and are good toasted under the broiler. These rolls are a little salty, because they contain relatively little sugar, but not overly so. Note that the recipe calls for shortening, but I used margarine. You need fat to make the rolls tender, but milk products, including butter, would make the crust softer. Ah, the chemistry of bread!

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

First, I'd like to pay tribute to Jan Berenstain, who passed away earlier this week. She and her husband wrote a fine series of children's books, gently reinforcing lessons about life, with the lovable Berenstain Bears delivering the messages in fun ways. I hope their sons are willing and able to carry on this nice tradition.

This week's book is a Kindle book, which was on sale for "free".

The Last Time
by David Fulmer
est. 250 pages; c. 2009

Richard Zale is an actor in TV commercials, living in NYC with his wife and two young daughters. One morning, while reading the newspaper, he learned that a song which had been significant to him in early adolescence was to be used in advertising. His wife shrugged off his upset, noting that this is the way he earns his living. However, this article caused Richard to call his childhood best friend, Joey Sesto. Unable to locate a phone number for Joey, Richard called Joey's sister Angela for the number; Angela responded that Joey had committed suicide by jumping off a cliff.

Upset by this news, Richard contemplated his friend's death, and concluded that there must be more to it than suicide, since Joey had always greatly feared heights. So, Richard rented a car and headed west on I-80 toward Wyanossing, Pennsylvania, to see for himself what happened. From the question of Joey's death arose more questions for Richard, among them what Joey was researching in the town library for hours on end, whose white Sable was following him as he drove around town, what his old stoner pal Louie might know about Joey's demise, and who was this outsider sheriff who was appearing wherever Richard might be?

This book was obviously written by someone who was from this area of Pennsylvania; his descriptions of the area around the Delaware Water Gap, the terrain and valley in which his town were situated and details such as buying wine from the State Store, a six pack from a restaurant, and referencing schools closing for the opening day of deer season were not something you'd know if you lived in, say, New York. This was a good book, with logical character development and nice back stories of each character's childhood or adolescence and how they related to each other. As I find typical of many e-books, there were a couple of blank pages, but whatever was missing didn't detract from the book. This was no Poirot mystery, but it was a good contemporary mystery story. I think you'd enjoy it.