Monday, April 30, 2012

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

My boys wanted a chocolate cake for dessert.  That's not a surprise, now, is it?  Boys want chocolate.  Boys want cake.  It's the natural order of the world, I think.

Anyway, I found a recipe in my older Fannie Farmer cookbook, the 1950s version, and adapted it a little bit to suit my needs and available ingredients.  The cake was a bit more crumbly than most, but Ryan pronounced it just as good as any cake, and Mark said it was much better.  No consensus there, eh?


1-2/3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp buttermilk powder*
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil
1 cup water*

Sift together the dry ingredients.  Add the vanilla, oil and water, beat for 2 minutes, turn into a greased 9x12 pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool and frost.

*The buttermilk powder can be eliminated and the water replaced with buttermilk if you have some around.  Milk can be soured by pouring 2 tbsp of either lemon juice or white vinegar into a measuring cup and adding milk to total one cup, then stirring and letting it sit for 5 minutes to substitute for these ingredients, too.

My frosting is colored yellow in this picture, because Ryan was stomping about the kitchen waving the food coloring box at me, chanting, "Make the cake interesting!"  Kids.  Sheesh.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Little April Sewing

Remember this dress? 
Yep, that's the one.  The one where my sewing machine and serger both decided to behave like (insert your favorite HBO words here).  I finally got it finished, and wore it for Easter.

It reminded me of my grandmother.  I remember her showing up at my house in the mid-1980s, at around 75 years of age, wearing a pair of loud cabbage-rose print pants; her comment was, "Aren't these pants fun?"  So, when I saw this fabric, I thought of my Grammy's "fun" pants, and decided I should have a dress in a "fun" print; thus, this fabric followed me home from my trip to Philly with GMarie.

Happily, there's enough for a "fun" summer dress, too.  Not that I wear "fun" prints much, but this one made me smile, and it is a pretty pink, after all!

Also in April, I joined Faye's "Starting At The Top 2012" Challenge.  The idea was to make one or more tops from new patterns.  I decided to use a pattern I've used before, but with a new view.  This was the result.

And since I had plenty of this plum colored knit, and it's so nice and soft, it became the view I've made before.  (I was wearing this top in turquoise the day I laid out the fabric and pattern pieces, and my dearly beloved complimented me on it.  I love it when he compliments me, after all these decades.)

Although this fabric was marked as being 1.5 yards, it was really around 3 yards (hooray for when people make measurement errors in my favor!), and there's enough for a sun dress, if the weather ever decides to stay warm.  We'll revisit that idea in June, I think.

Hope you all have a nice weekend planned!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Whole Wheat and Oat Rolls

After the nor'easter blew (or crawled) through here earlier this week, it's been cold.  So I was happy to spend quality time with my oven, making a new type of roll.  Of late, the boys have been asking for rolls for their lunches, instead of bread, and I'm happy to say that it's no problem at all to make them, other than the fact that they don't all come out exactly the same size!


1-1/3 cups warm water
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast*
2 cups flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
5 tsp gluten powder
1 cup oats (regular or quick)
5 tbsp powdered milk
1/4 cup egg beaters (or 1 egg)
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Dissolve the yeast in the water in your bread machine bucket or mixing bowl (*use 6 tsp if you want them to rise faster), then add the remaining ingredients in order.  Mix according to the directions in my bread making tutorial (link to the right).  Let sit 15 minutes after the first kneading, then remove from your bowl and place on a floured counter.  Divide into 16 even pieces, and place on greased baking sheets.  If desired, brush the tops with a little warm milk, then let them rise until approximately doubled in size.  Bake at 350F in a convection oven or 375F in a conventional oven for 14 to 18 minutes, until they're nicely browned.

Not only were these good with our roast chicken dinner that night, they made great sandwiches the next day.  They were also excellent microwaved with butter with the boys' eggs for breakfast.

On a humorous note, did any of you hear about the bears invading the weather forecast here a couple of nights ago?  I was watching it.  That station is right next to a ski resort, so it's no big shock that there are bears around there!  Here's a link if you want to see it.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Garden Tuesday: A Random House

So, did you all think I've fallen off the face of the earth?  Me, too.

We had 3 days of rain with the nor'easter that passed by here, so I don't have any new and wonderful photos.  So, instead, here's a picture of a house my daughter drove past in the Philadelphia area, and sent to me with the comment, "Isn't this the greatest girly house you've ever seen?"

Maybe I can get back on the straight and narrow soon.  Anyway, Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Roasted Root Soup

Do you save tiny amounts of leftovers? I do; they make great ingredients for lunch. If it at least half fills an 8 ounce custard dish, it's good for lunch ingredients.

So, it's a damp 50 degrees today, and soup seemed like a great lunch. I had a bowl full of roasted roots in the fridge, so decided to turn them into soup


1 cup roasted roots
1/2 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1 tsp beef base (or 1 beef bouillon cube)
boiling water

Microwave the roasted roots and tomatoes until they're hot, 1 to 2 minutes,
in a microwavable cup or bowl. Add the beef base or bouillon cube, pour boiling water to fill the cup, stir until the beef base dissolves, and serve at once. We had this with salad for lunch, and it was great. If you had a little leftover beef, it could be shredded and added, but there wasn't any in my fridge. That's not surprising; my guys rarely leave any meat on the serving platter.

Making soup from leftovers is really so easy; you can make it in a Thermos to take to work for lunch, or it only takes a couple of minutes from the time you decide you're starving and it's time for lunch. Try it the next time you find a tiny amount of leftovers hanging around in your refrigerator!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Flowers

Looking out my breakfast room window, my flowering cherry tree is getting ready to burst into bloom.
The rest of the yard looks great from a distance, too, although the lawn service really needs to show up and do their thing.

And the rhododendron outside my kitchen window which had early flowers killed by frost about 3 weeks ago is coming back in full force! (yes, it's pretty skinny at the bottom. That's the problem with having a 50 to 70 year old bush that one dog liked to dig holes under, and a piece of plywood fell off a roof under repair at one point and took off a big part of it.)
Happy flowery Tuesday, everyone.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Book Sale and Book Review

Today was the first of 2 spring book sales. The boys found some stuff (and I bought only a few books to send to others).

Bonus: Kindle book review!

by Libby Hellman and David Walker

Barbara Adams was the director of Windbrook Library. Working late one night, she found evidence of something amiss, and called her friend Mavis to tell her to call immediately. Then Barbara heard a squeak at the basement door, went to investigate, and was thrown down the stairs. The next morning, JJ Jackson, the maintenance man, found her body.

The police considered this a suicide, but Julia Fairbanks, daughter of Barbara's friend Mavis, and a law student, decided to conduct her own investigation. JJ told Julia that he "couldn't say as most folks would miss her much." And when Julia asked the interim acting director if Barbara was well liked by the staff, he responded, "Barbara was a very competent, conscientious administrator." Julia pressed on, ultimately reaching a conclusion close to home.

This was a short book, probably no more than 90 or so pages in paper form. While I've read better, it was pretty good. This book was written as a fundraiser for a library in or around Chicago (I'm fuzzy on those details; they were in the introduction), and it's likely the authors weren't published before this book. It was a nice, short diversion, and appropriate to mention, given my trip to the library today.

Hope you are all enjoying good weather!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pita Bread!

This is just in time for your lunch tomorrow. Really, it's that fast and easy. Plus, it's a recipe sized for a normal group of people, not my large, lunatic bunch. Print it out; you'll be glad you did.


2/3 cup warm water (around 110F)
1 tsp yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup white flour
2 tsp gluten powder (optional)
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
4 tsp olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in the water, and mix in the remaining ingredients (or, dump into your bread machine bucket or mixer bowl in the order given). Knead for 10 minutes, then stop, split into 6 pieces and roll into balls. Put on a plate atop the stove and turn on the oven to preheat to 500F. When the oven's preheated, flatten the balls and roll them out to about 6" diameter (which will be really thin), and place on a greased baking sheet. Immediately put them in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, at which time they'll be puffy and ready to split.
I stuffed mine with broiled chicken strips, but you could use tuna salad, egg salad, deli meats, or whatever floats your boat. Everyone you feed will be impressed with your lunch making skills! (Cut up apple pieces are optional, but fun, as is the Winnie the Pooh plate.)

Happy weekending, everyone; I hope you have nice things planned.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

I read this book last week on my Kindle, and it turned out to be particularly appropriate for the week before Easter. I like this author, as it turns out, and may hunt for a couple of his books at the next two library book sales (the next 2 Saturdays).

by Russell Blake

Some reviewers on Amazon have likened this book to The DaVinci Code. I don't see that. In order to enjoy it, however, you do have to believe on some level that it's possible that the Knights Templar were not driven to extinction following the Crusades; they just renamed themselves and restarted elsewhere.

The Voynich Cypher is a medieval scroll written in a cypher which has never been cracked, although plenty of cryptologists have tried.

Two weeks ago, the Abbey of St. Peter in Dorset was broken into. The Abbey is guarded by the Order of The Holy Relic, descended from the Knights Templar; an intruder drugs one guard, then rappels 60 feet into a hidden passage in search of a treasure in a hidden chamber. The treasure, a cylinder of oak and clay inscribed in Latin, holding the "Key to the most important secret ever known," which is capable of changing the course of history, is stolen. Now, Dr. Steven Cross has missed a call from Winston Twain, famous cryptologist, about the Voynich Cypher, which both men have been trying to decode; when Dr. Cross tried to return Mr. Twain's call, he learns that Twain was murdered the day he made the call.

A few days later, Winston Twain's daughter Natalie appeared in Dr. Cross' office in Italy; she is in possession of the stolen cylinder. Thus begins the chase involving two different groups intent upon gaining control of the cylinder: a team sent by the Order of The Holy Relic, headed by a former Mossad agent, and one headed by Morbius Frank, a homicidal billionaire, who was Natalie's father's partner, and instrumental in having the cylinder stolen. The Order wants the cylinder to be returned to them and never opened, thus preserving the secret of The Voynich Cypher, while Frank wants the key to the Voynich Cypher contained within the cylinder, so he can find the riches presumed to be available to whomever controls the key to the cypher.

This book was fast-paced and exciting It might not be appealing to those who are exceedingly devout, and offended by any suggestion of change to religious status quo; however, I found it to have a very satisfying and rather realistic conclusion. Indeed, if the discovery at the end of the book were made in real life, I believe it would be not a hindrance, but a boost to religion. It was at least something very interesting to contemplate during Holy Week, which makes a good book all the more satisfying.

Thor would also have liked me to take a minute to dedicate
this Thorsday Book Review to Tsar of the Portuguese Water Dog Pack. Tsar was not a Portie, but a calmer, more reserved guy who lived with 8 Porties, a little white dog, and their humans, Sue and Rob. Tsar has been sick for the past few weeks, and he crossed the Rainbow Bridge on Monday. I extend my deepest sympathy to Sue and Rob, because I know their broken-heartedness. I will miss Tsar, too. And I'm sure that Thor was waiting at the other end of the Rainbow Bridge to welcome Thor, and go hang out in a sunny meadow together. RIP, Tsar, and my love to your family.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Spring Colors

This is the best thing about spring: the riot of colors!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, April 9, 2012


Good Friday's Standing Rib Roast was outstanding (groan - bad pun intended). No pictures; it was just gone too fast.

Easter Sunday dinner is on Saturday, so people can travel on Sunday without missing dinner. I cooked two boneless lamb legs, totaling about 8 pounds. There were some leftovers. Of course, I didn't take many pictures. So, here's my plate.
And Jeff helping himself to some roasted roots.

Sunday morning was all about the Hot Cross Buns. I made 3 dozen, adapting my technique to use the cool rise method I learned from the Farm Wives' bread cookbook. It was pretty successful. Remind me the week before next Easter and I'll post it then, so you can all try it
Sunday morning was also all about hunting for Easter baskets. This was a teaser I put in the middle of the table before I went to bed.
The big kids picked at it while making pancakes at 8AM. Maybe to the rest of you 8AM is normal, but we're late risers. They all went to take naps after they ate.

The weekend was sunny, and my house was gloriously noisy for 3 days. What more can anyone ask of a holiday?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Drive By Good Friday

Quick post for Good Friday. Last night's spring cake: yellow cake, chocolate frosting, flower sprinkles.

Big kid pancake party: Cass making pancakes.

Dan took over.

I'll be making Hot Cross Buns tomorrow. Of course, roast leg of lamb is Saturday night's Easter dinner, followed by the traditional Easter Basket Hunt on Sunday before everyone has to hit the road. Then, there's only a month until the last 2 girls graduate from college! I'm so excited for them!

And, some freebies for you Kindle users:

My friend Pam in Chattanooga reviewed a book called Night Swim a little while back. The author is now offering free Kindle downloads to Pam's readers, and I'm passing the opportunity on to you. Here's the link!

One more thing: A free bread cookbook I found online yesterday. Good for Kindle again. I'll be trying some of these recipes for you, and reviewing them as time permits.

Happy Easter, Everyone!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

A while back, I read and reviewed a book called The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. It was a pretty good book, although it started off slowly. So I was intrigued when I discovered that I have another book in my library by the same author.

by Josephine Tey
copyright 1948; 200 pgs.

Robert Blair of the law firm Blair, Hayward and Bennet was sitting in his office late one afternoon, having had his tea, contemplating life. His firm hadn't had a Hayward since 1843, and the current Bennet, Nevil, was a young, somewhat impulsive man. Alone in the office, Ro
bert was preparing to leave early, when the phone rang. Marion Sharpe from a house called The Franchise on the outskirts of the town of Milford was looking for legal representation, since the police had just arrived, accusing her and her elderly mother of "Abduction and Detention". Robert suggested that she call a different lawyer in town, to which she responded that he wears ugly suits, and she wouldn't trust him.

Miss Sharpe and her mother were accused of kidnapping a seemingly innocent and harmless schoolgirl named Betty Kane, and holding her prisoner to work as a domestic
in their house. But Mr. Blair disbelieved her story, and so decided to take on the first Abduction and Detention case his firm had had since December 1798.

This was a good book; the author was able to make her reader care about the characters despite their flaws. The story twisted and turned, ultimately coming to a very satisfying ending.

And, for both the paper and electronic fans among you, this book is available in paperback and Kindle editions at Amazon. Try it, if you have some reading time in your schedule!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Garden Tuesday: April Sunshine

Well, it's been stayed cooler for the last week - 20 to 30 degrees cooler than the previous week. But spring is still coming.

You can see flowering trees in these views, which, taken together, cover much of my back yard.

And the magnolia we planted on the back patio a few years back never cease
s to amaze me. Imagine a southern tree thriving here in cold and snowy Pennsylvania!

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone. Enjoy your own signs of spring!

Monday, April 2, 2012

A New Toy

Well, Saturday I ventured out in the rain. I took the Singer that's behaving poorly for fixing, and my White serger for a tuneup and oil change or whatever they do to those nasty machines to make them less cranky. Of course, the real purpose of my trip was to get a lifetime machine...and for this price, it had better last a lifetime!

I decided upon a Janome machine. Oh, I could have driven 50 miles to get a Bernina or Husquvarna Viking machine, or even into Philly for a Pfaff. But the service would then have been a living nightmare. A guarantee of not one, but TWO one hundred mile round trips every
time the machine needed service? That's just not something I would eagerly anticipate. And the Sewing Center, which is only 8 miles from my house, can no longer reliably get parts for any of those machines. So Janome it was.

Then I spent time playing with the various models they had, asking questions about how much metal was in it, and so forth. And then I made my selection: The Janome Professional 6500.

And here it is.

This sucker is huge. I had to have help getting it out of the store, because I can't pick it up. (Since the shopping center in which the store is located is very sadly quite vaca
nt, I just parked in the fire lane for the hour I was there.) Of course, when I got home, I dispatched Ryan to haul it out of the car, and he, being a curious "little" guy, opened it up for me and moved it to its home.

One nice thing is that the work space is extra wide. Another is that you can see the bobbin right through the little cover, so I'll know when I'm about to run out of bobbin thread, instead of being surprised all the time. (It also has a separate bobbin winding motor, which is pretty nifty.)
Of course, some dumb**s didn't buy more bobbins, so I have to remember to get them when I get my other machines back. I like all of the markings on the plate around the needle. It'll doubtless make it easier for turning at angles and things like that. Let's just say that the scales appeal to the mechanical engineer in me.

I'm not sure how I feel about the computerized screen telling me about all of my stitches and whatnot. But I did make a test monogram on the pocket of one of my dearly beloved's tees, and that was kind of fun. Leave it to him to whine about a dark purple monogram on a black tee. It's not girly, really!

I like that you can choose to have the machine always stop with the needle all the way up or all the way down. I really like its button which cuts the threads at the end of the line of stitching when pushed. But my favorite thing is the automatic needle threading. I won't have to worry about where my magnifying glass is all the time! Score one for aging eyeballs!

I was so excited about this machine that I decided to make a dress out of my pink crepe brocade for Easter. There was only one "minor" problem. I cut it out of a pattern designed for knits, which made it too small for something with no stretch.
I guess I'll have to offer it to one of my daughters, who are younger and skinnier than me, have them try it on to make sure it works, and then finish it. Blah! I hate when things don't work out.

Next up: finishing the flowered dress, and maybe another addition to the sewing table.