Thursday, May 31, 2012

Double Thorsday Book Review!

I have a real book and an e-book to review today!  Spending lots of quality time with Kevin the Dentist also insures that I spend lots of quality time waiting for things like x-ray development and other fun things we don't need to discuss here.  Anyway....Book #1

By Katherine Howe
copyright 2009
362 pages

I bought this book at one of the used book sales this spring.  Oh, I know I said I'm not buying myself any more books, because I have so many, but how could I resist this cover?

How could I resist this back cover?

How could I resist the inside of the book?  And the pages felt nice in my hand, too, which is something I love about real books, and miss about e-books.

Connie Goodwin is a graduate student at Harvard, preparing to write her thesis to receive her PhD in Colonial American History.  Shortly after passing her oral exams, her mother Grace calls to ask Connie to go to Grandma Sophie's house in Marblehead, Mass., to clean it up for sale.  Grandma has been dead for 20 years, and Grace has ignored the house, but the property taxes have become cumbersome, so Grace wishes to sell it, without the bother of returning home from New Mexico.  Connie reluctantly agrees to take on this job while searching for a topic for her dissertation.  She finds Sophie's house completely furnished, but absolutely without modern utilities (save indoor plumbing).  While going through old books, Connie found a hollow key in a 200+ year old Bible; a tiny rolled up parchment in the key bore the words "Deliverance Dane".  In an effort to find out who or what Deliverance Dane was, Connie scours records at old churches, town halls, and libraries.  She also meets a hunky steeplejack, Sam, who attempts to assist her.  Because, after all, what fun is a novel set in New England without a hunky steeplejack?

Interspersed between the modern chapters in this book are chapters set between 1682 and 1750, which explain the background of Deliverance Dane and her descendants.

I liked the first 3/4 of this book, but in the last quarter, the author took a turn I found unnecessary; I thought she could have come to the same ending without following the course she did.  Overall, it was a pretty good book, however.  3 stars out of 5

by Kathryn Judson
copyright 2011

This story is told in the way a mother or grandmother would relate a family saga to a teen or young adult, complete with the periodic inquiry as to whether you'd like more cocoa.  It's the story of Great-grandfather Lars, who immigrated from a fishing village in Norway in the 1880s when the fish stopped biting.  He was 17, and his father sent him with his 5 year old brother, Thorval, to the Dakota Territory, to live with his Uncle Anders, a bachelor running a successful teamster business.  Lars and Thorval are greeted in town by a pastor who is neither Lutheran nor Norwiegan, but helpful nonetheless, and feeds the boys while they await their uncle (and gives them puppies as they're leaving with Uncle Anders).  The book is about Lars' first few years in Dakota, learning to handle horses, meeting people, learning to be more American and less Norweigan, and, of course, meeting girls, one of whom would become his bride.  There are Indians, who are more or less friendly, cowboys, and all of the other types of people one would expect to encounter in the Old West.  The book made me chuckle a couple of times, gasp in horror a couple of times, and smile a lot.  Overall, it was a very nice book, which made me wish I had family stories of my great-grandfather Lars, er, I mean Olaf.  This is about as close to a 5 star book as I can imagine.

Both books are available in paperback at, and the second is also a Kindle book.  I got it for free, and I'd love to have a hard copy of it.

Of course, there are plenty of horses and dogs in this book (and a dog in the first book), so Thor would approve.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Dogwood

On my back terrace, a dogwood tree is merrily blooming.

Sorry I've been AWOL, but I'm spending lots of quality time with my dentist, Kevin.  Quality time for him, that is, because I'm helping him pay for his duck hunting trip to Louisiana in September.  As for me?  Well, let's just say it's the never-ending root canal saga, with complications galore.  At least Mark's done with school, and Ryan's taking finals this week.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  Hope you all had a terrific Memorial Day weekend!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Very Little Sewing

Remember the dress I messed up, and so had to offer to my daughters?  Well, my newly graduated nurse wanted it, but with the proviso that it have cap sleeves, because she hates long sleeves (for whatever her reason).  So I drafted some cap sleeves, installed them, facings and a hem, and finally finished the princess seamed dress for her.

This color is not right.  It's really a medium shade of true pink.  The color is fabulous with her dark hair.  Maybe one of these days she'll even wear it!

And maybe this weekend I'll get some sewing done for myself.  Let's see if the weather inspires me!

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Peasant Rolls

We went to a cute little Italian restaurant last weekend, and my dearly beloved was absolutely wild about their dinner rolls.  I tried a bite of one, and then set about trying to come close to that flavor after we got home.  An adaptation of a bread recipe from Beth Hensperger's cookbook, this was the result.


1-1/2 cups warm water
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast*
4-1/4 cups flour
2 tbsp gluten powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil

Pour the water in your bread machine bucket or mixing bowl, and sprinkle the yeast over it (use the larger amount to get the rolls to rise faster).  Add the remaining ingredients in the order listed, and mix on the dough cycle in your bread machine or at slow speed with your mixer.  Knead for 10 minutes, let rest for 10 minutes, knead for another 5 minutes, then form into 16 balls.  Place on a baking sheet and flatten with your palm, then let them rise until doubled in size. Pour 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of your preheated oven, then bake at 375F for 20 to 25 minutes, or 375F Convection for 16 to 20 minutes.

My dearly beloved was just delighted that I nailed the flavor of the restaurant's rolls perfectly, and even more pleased that my crust was thinner.  My littlest fussbudget, from whom "It's OK" is high food praise, pointed out to me that he loves these rolls, and claims to have eaten 8 yesterday.  So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I made these Monday and Tuesday nights, and they're on schedule for today, as well!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Doubly Wonderful Weekend

Friday at 5, I loaded my guys into my "little" blue Caddy.  Destination: Cass' college, 250 miles away.  She graduated on Saturday at 1!

This is so typical of her attitude; always happy.  Now she has to take the RN licensing exam in a couple of weeks, and she's on her way to a great life!

But we didn't have time to celebrate yet, because we had to get to Kellie's graduation at 6.  And that was 120 miles away.  So off we set!  I actually beat Kellie to the university's Coliseum, where her graduation was held.  So while we were sitting on a bench, waiting for Kellie, lots of people walked past us.  And when she arrived, Kellie told us that one of her friends had told her that her mother was over by the statue of Jerry West.  Maybe we look a little alike.

She already has one job offer and several more potential jobs, so I think she's doing wonderfully!

A humorous side note: When we went to Cass' graduation, we all drove from her apartment in her Explorer.  Do you think Ryan and Mark were comfy?

So, 750 miles of driving and 2 graduations in 30 hours, and I was beat.  I was going to say that I was getting too old for this crap, but then Shannon, who had driven from Philly to each graduation and back home Saturday night, confessed that she slept through most of Sunday.  Maybe I'm not that old, after all!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

by Rex Stout
copyright 1938

Nero Wolfe had Archie driving him to the North Atlantic Exposition in upstate New York to display his orchids when a tire blew out and the car careened off the road, into a tree.  Looking for help, Archie climbed over a fence and into what turned out to be a bull pen. Cornered, Archie was rescued by the niece of the bull's owner, who offered Archie and Nero Wolfe a place to stay overnight while their car was being towed in for repair.

  The bull in question, Caesar, was a champion stud, but scheduled to be the centerpiece at a barbecue the next weekend.  This was causing great consternation amongst members of the National Guernsey League.  That very night, a neighbor's son was murdered in Caesar's pen, and Nero Wolfe was commissioned to solve the crime.  This was a typical, fun Nero Wolfe adventure, albeit a rare one in which Wolfe has left the confines of his home and doesn't have his private chef, Fritz, cooking for him.  Still, there's plenty of food involved in the book, including the church ladies' chicken and dumplings for a dime a plate.

If you can get your hands on any of Rex Stout's books, I'd strongly recommend it.  Meanwhile, Happy Thorsday, everyone! (In memory of Thor's birthday, which would have been last weekend.)

Not Much Cooking

I had a tooth go bad a week or so ago, while Kevin, my dentist, was off hunting turkeys.  Tuesday he took me in for x-rays, discovered a lovely infection, and started a root canal.  Meanwhile, to avoid chewing, and causing my tooth more pain, I've been having this for breakfast every day:

2 cups frozen strawberries and 1 tbsp sugar thrown in the blender with 1 cup nonfat milk.

The balance of my diet has been yogurt, scrambled eggs, and oatmeal.  So anything other than routine cooking is on hold!

Maybe I'll feel like doing a Thorsday book review later.  And, for Aki, I have a dress to write about, maybe tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I hope you're all having a good day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Azalea!

I was very pleased to see my azalea in full bloom on this cold and rainy morning.  It certainly perked me up!

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Round and About: Scranton

 Last December, my littlest guy had to go to Scranton for a friend's Bar Mitzvah, and I actually remembered to take my camera!  Of course, it was 20 degrees out that day, so almost all of the pictures were taken through the car window.  Sorry, but it was too cold for me to be wandering about!

 This is the Scranton City Hall.  Police and Fire headquarters are here, also.  I love it; to me, it's just what a city hall should look like, almost like a castle.

This is the beginning of the University of Scranton.  They bought up a large number of buildings along this main road and renovated them, along with numerous old houses on the blocks to either side. They spent a very long time building the curved wall on the left corner of this intersection out of local granite.
 The very first time I drove down this street, I spotted this house.  At the time, it looked pretty sad; the paint was peeling, and the few shrubs which were there were out of control.  Still, I loved the house.  If it had been on more than one-half acre, I might have been tempted to buy it.  This front view, while lovely, isn't what I loved most about this house.
 This is what I loved most about the house: this bay window.  Can you tell from the picture that the glass in it is curved?  I am in awe of the craftmanship from the 1890s.
 The old lady who had owned the house died a couple of years back, and two guys from either New York or New Jersey bought it.  They've made it into a banquet hall available for rentals.  It's where the Bar Mitzvah was, and I sought out one of the owners to ask to see the curved window from the inside, and to tell him that they have done a magnificent job renovating it.  He seemed pleased by the compliment.

This is a closer view of the University of Scranton's curved wall; you can see some of the buildings farther up the road a little better.
 This is the cathedral in Scranton.
 And this is just a random intersection, one of many.
This is nowhere near all of Scranton.  It's just the first two miles on the main road into the city heading south from the suburbs.  It really is a stately old city.

My tours aren't nearly as informative or exhaustive as Diane's tours of France.  Of course, Scranton is under 200 years old, so there's nowhere near as much history to absorb.  But, if you're a fan of "The Office", or just like seeing other places, I hope you've enjoyed the little bit of our "big(ish) city" that I've shown you!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

Are you tired of my reviews of old books yet?  Sorry; I can't help it.  They're the ones that speak to me, and if I wanted reading to be a chore instead of a joy, I'd pick up a Dickens tome and slog through it, so I could claim to be "cultured" and "sophisticated" or whatever other adjectives might be applied to such reading.  (There must be a reason Dickens has to be assigned reading in school, and I doubt that it's because ol' Charlie is the life of the party.)

Rex Stout
copyright 1936

Yes!  A Nero Wolfe Mystery!  Found at the used book sale a couple of weeks back, I knew that this had to be the first thing I read.

Nero Wolfe has a set schedule, and it cannot be disturbed for any reason.  To this schedule, he has decided he must add exercise - perhaps his 1/7th of a ton of weight bothered him - and so Darts is scheduled for 15 minutes daily.  (Pub-crawlers, rejoice!  Darts is exercise!)  During his daily exercise one Sunday in October, his faithful assistant Archie noticed an article about the Marquis of Clivers visiting Washington and New York.  This is not significant, other than the fact that Archie wanted Wolfe to be interviewed by the author of said piece in order to increase business; to emphasize this, Archie pinned the article to the dartboard with one of Nero Wolfe's darts.

The next day, Nero Wolfe had two appointments scheduled.  The first was with the head of a company from which $30,000 cash had gone missing from a drawer; the second was with an unknown female with a voice that made Archie want to see her in person, who wouldn't give her name.  She spun a fabulous yarn about her father and four other men being owed a significant sum of money by a man missing half an ear to whom they had sold a horse back in the 1890s, when they were all working as miners and one needed to escape.  Her father was dead, but she had rounded up three of the four other people so they could try to collect the debt, from a man who was now none other than the Marquis of Clivers.  This lady was also accused of stealing the $30,000.  Nero Wolfe declined to investigate for the company, instead choosing to work for the lady with the debt, that case being considerably more interesting.

A couple of murders, a police raid on Nero Wolfe's house, hiding witnesses; this book is great.  Rex Stout must have been a genius, because, writing during the Depression, he wrote witty, sometimes humorous stories about topics where wit would seemingly have no place.  His books are always written from Archie's point of view, leaving the reader guessing what Nero Wolfe has deduced in order to solve the mystery.  The book is readily available, in case any of you want to read it.  Thor would approve.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Sunset

When the sun sets, who doth not look for night?

John Ruskin, Richard III (Act II, Scene 3)

It's always nice when night starts out looking like this.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!