Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Blue Spruce

Blue spruce trees love my yard.

These 2 trees were planted in 1989, when we bought the house, and were about 6 feet tall at the time.  There were no trees across most of the lawn, just Old Madison and the orchard.  The rest was just leftover grasses from when cows roamed the place.  To the front right of this picture is a maple tree we dug out of a wooded area and transplanted in 1990 (there are probably 20 of those).  The roundish tree behind and to the left of the blue spruce is an elm tree.

This one is on the other side of my lawn.  The giant 2-trunked thing directly behind the blue spruce is a poplar tree, also planted in 1990.  I love/hate them. They grow quickly and throw shade (which we need), but the roots grow at the surface, which makes mowing difficult.  Sharp eyes might also notice that Old Madison is at the right of this picture!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Healthy Lemon Chess Pie

My dearly beloved is a huge fan of pies.  Cookies are good, cake is OK, ice cream is decent, but he loves a good pie.

I don't know what got into me last night, but I decided to work on my pie-phobia once again, and make a low cholesterol version of a pie I've made before.  And so, with great flavor intact, I'm pleased to bring you....


(*because, really, who wants to think of cholesterol and pie in the same breath?)

1 cup egg beaters
4 tbsp margarine, melted and cooled
1/4 cup lowfat milk
2 cups sugar
3tbsp flour
2 tbsp cornmeal
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract
9" unbaked pie crust

Beat together the egg beaters, margarine and milk until combined.  Beat in the sugar, flour and cornmeal, then add the lemon juice.  Pour into an unbaked pie crust and bake at 375F fir 45 minutes, until the center is set.

I used a 10" pie plate, so mine is a little lower than it would be if I used a 9" pie plate.  No big deal, at least it didn't flow over the top and onto the bottom of the oven, causing stinkage extraordinaire.

The boys all had their pie with whipped cream, but I like mine plain.  It's up to you how to enjoy it!

And actually, this sudden burst of pie making is all attributable to the Wall Street Journal.  They had an article about pie in this weekend's edition, which made the point that pies were reinvented in America to become the sweet treats we enjoy today, because in Europe, fruits and berries were available to only the wealthy, whereas here, everyone could get fruits and berries everywhere.  Interesting, right?  Anyway, they mentioned two books about pies, and, at the urging of my dearly beloved, they are winging their way to my little corner of the world even as we speak.  I'll let you know more about them soon!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Weather Vane

One of the great things about living in an old house is the strange old features it has.

Mine has a weather vane, in the form of a whale.

This picture was taken as thunder and lightning were all around us, people down the road were losing power, and limbs were being ripped from trees within 5 miles of us.  Yet we stayed dry.  Strange thing, weather.  Really strange.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Well, I spent Saturday looking like half of my face had been run over like a truck, and slept about 16 hours, but at least I'm no longer in need of Kevin's "happy drugs", and therefore, no longer an idiot!  So last night I made my guys some cookies for dessert


3/4 cup melted margarine or butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp milk powder
2 cups oats
1 egg or 1/4 cup egg beaters
2 tbsp water

Beat together the margarine, peanut butter, brown sugar and vanilla.  Add the flour, powder, soda, salt and milk powder, and beat until well combined.  Add the oats, egg and water, and beat until combined.  Scoop out onto greased baking trays, and bake 9 to 12 minutes at 375F or 350F in a convection oven.  Makes about 5 dozen.

And not one picture.  That's right.  My guys ate them so fast that I didn't take a single picture.  You'll just have to believe them that these were good!

(The plum tree out front will have to serve as a substitute for a picture of cookies.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Miscellany

I'm glad everyone's enjoying Mary Roberts Rhinehart; I'm starting another of her books later, or possibly tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I read one called "Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy," and it was pretty funny.  The premise is ludicrous on its face: the main character is a member of a family of assassins which stretches back to ancient Greece, and all family members are required to join the family business, supported by the family trust fund, and, incidentally, all must be named for places.  Look it up; it was free for Kindle as of yesterday!

I'm not up to more of a book review than that, having had a huge cyst removed from above the tooth that got root canaled in May; this should end the problems that have persisted, but for the next couple of days, I'm ingesting lots of happy pills.  Scrambled eggs are also a large part of the menu until I get the stitches out next Wednesday.  Kevin said he's only seen 2 other cases as bad as this one, and his friend Joe the endodontist said he's only done about 10.  So, yep, trust me to really complicate something that should be pretty simple.

Anyway, Kellie was talking to her boyfriend last week, and he was shocked to learn that she sews.  Wanted her to make him something nice to prove it.  So she went out, got some fabric, and made him a body pillow.  I helped her with the stuffing of the inner pillow, and balancing it while she stitched it closed on the machine; I also had to help her install the zipper on the covering, because she had "sorta kinda" forgotten how to install a zipper.  That's OK; it was fun to play with fabric with my beautiful daughter.

That's a great pillow, isn't it?

Happy weekending, everyone!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

I got this book at one of the Library Used Book Sales last spring.  Yes, I know I swore off buying more books after Jeff got me the 1000 books from the estate sale for $100 a couple of years back.  But I donated many of those to the 2 libraries which are within 5 miles of my house because I just didn't love them, so I'm entitled, right?  And at $1 or $2 for a nice hardcovered book, how can I possibly refuse?

Mary Roberts Rhinehart
copyright 1908

Miss Rachael Innes is a spinster who took in her niece and nephew after her brother died.  They rent a summer house out of the city (presumably Pittsburgh) each year, and this year is no exception; they've rented Sunnyside,  It seems like a nice enough place, but on the second night they're there, strange noises begin to occur; on the third night, Arnold Armstrong, the son of the house's owner, is shot in the house.  A number of seemingly unrelated events occur: Paul Armstrong, the house's owner, dies while on vacation in Colorado.  His bank fails, and its head clerk is suspected of having something to do with the failure.  Rachael's nephew is abducted.  One of the servants turns up dead, maybe of a heart attack, and maybe not.

Aside from the fact that Mrs. Rhinehart could spin a marvelous tale, one of the fun things about reading a book set in the very early 1900s and written then is the realization of how much things are the same, and yet so very different.  Example: some people have yet to accept that the age of the automobile is here to stay.  And one thing I found particularly amusing was that the electric plant closed every night from midnight to about 6AM; if one wanted to have a party lasting beyond then, arrangements had to be made to pay extra for the plant to be open.  And, of course, it's easy to forget that with the failure of Mr. Armstrong's bank, its depositors lost all of they money they had in that bank, because the FDIC didn't exist.

This was a good mystery by a prolific author.  It's available both in real book form, and as a free Kindle e-book (because it was copyrighted before 1923).  I have a few more of her books in real book form, and I downloaded about 15 of them, so I have plenty of reading material available should I long for another great mystery!

Interesting side note: Mrs. Rhinehart started writing when her husband, a doctor, lost substantial money in a stock market crash in 1905; by 1910 she was making $100,000 per year!  Holy Cow!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Old Madison

Have you ever looked around your yard or neighborhood, and wondered what it looked like 100 or 200 years ago?  I think about that kind of thing.  It was brought to mind recently because I was reading a "Title Abstract" for a property in which we had an interest; the history of the property was fascinating, starting as a farm, being passed down to the owner's son, then subdivided, and then some lots being combined because they were too small for the houses to be built upon them.  My house has a deed, but not a Title Abstract, so to see the past, you have to go to the courthouse and look at past deeds.  It is wonderful to handle pieces of history like that, the papers typed or even handwritten (if old enough) by people long gone, and absorb the history of the ground on which you stand.

So what has this to do with Garden Tuesday?  Easy.  This is Old Madison Lane.

See the tree lines?  Some are original.  Some are replacements.  All are on the original street line; if the street had not been moved, it would run straight through my living room. 

This is the west side of the street; you'd have been viewing this side of the trees from a cow pasture, or from the front yards of tiny houses which were supposedly along the street 100 or more years ago.

Look around your own yard, even if you live in an apartment, and think of the lives gone by which have been there.  It's a fascinating pastime.  You'll see your world in a different light.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Friday, July 13, 2012

When Watermelon isn't Sweet...

Of late, all they've been selling around here are the seedless, small, "Personal Watermelons."  They seem to be just as expensive as the old-fashioned big watermelons, but at least half of them lack flavor.  It's very disappointing.  So, with the remains of one last weekend, inspired by a book I was reading, this is what I did:


2 cups cut up watermelon (bite sized pieces)
2 to 4 tbsp honey
1 cup cottage cheese

Drizzle the honey over the watermelon, stir well, and let sit for 15 minutes.  Stir in the cottage cheese, and let it sit another 15 minutes.  Serve for breakfast, lunch or dessert.  If you keep it overnight, you might to need to drain some liquid off the top before serving.

Inspired by the book:

by Robin Allen

Poppy Markham is a restaurant inspector in the city of Austin, Texas, a job she took after leaving her father's restaurant when he remarried and hired his new wife's daughter, Ursula, as chef.  One particular weekend, her father asked her to come back to work in the restaurant, helping in the kitchen and dining room, for the grand reopening featuring a French chef named Evariste, who has a Michelin Star.  Evariste was a roundly disliked, difficult person who, on Friday night during the grand reopening, turned up dead beside the dumpster in back of the restaurant; later that evening, Poppy's father had a heart attack.  Ursula, who is herself a difficult person, was quickly arrested for the murder, and Poppy's stepmother immediately demanded that Poppy deal with the police and get them to release Ursula at once.  But Evariste was stabbed with one of Ursula's knives; who else could have been suspect?  Evariste's wife, Bonbon?  Trevor, Ursula's assistant?  Will, the general manager?  And what were those 3 guys who were clearly not from Austin, as evidenced by their wearing of suits and ties (completely out of character for Austin, which I know from business dealings in Austin) doing in the restaurant, meeting with Will, and meeting with Bonbon at her hotel?  Where was the flash drive, which allegedly held Evariste's latest recipes and secrets?  A fun romp, available both for Kindle and as a real book.

The inspiration for my watermelon fix came when Poppy went into the kitchen of her father's restaurant looking for food, and found some fruit, honey and other ingredients; Bingo!  That was what I needed!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

It's been pretty hot everywhere, and when it's hot, it seems like you want lighter reading fare.  Well, here are two selections.

by Terri Thayer

Dewey Pellicano was the only sister and youngest of four children, so growing up, she had no interest in her mother's quilt shop.  She was a computer programmer, and inherited the quilt shop when her mother died unexpectedly.  This story takes place at a quilt expo where her shop is an exhibitor; Dewey's sister in law, Kym, has organized their display, and Dewey would rather be anywhere than at the quilt expo.  Then the show took a turn for the ugly when Dewey went for a meeting with a woman interested in buying her store, entered her room with the woman's employee, and found the woman dead.  Of course, Dewey's an early suspect, but was released.  A couple of days later, one of the organizers of the show was  murdered.  Murder notwithstanding, this book was a fun romp through the lives and scheming of women in the quilting world.  Oh, and a hunky cop doesn't hurt the story either.  Not a serious mystery, I figured out who the killer was midway through the book, but it was fun.  3.5/5

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Another lighthearted whodunit.  Kiki Lowenstein was a 33 year old widow with an 11 year old daughter who worked at a scrapbooking store.  While sponsoring a scrapbooking event at the Missouri Botanical Garden during a garden show, a customer, Yvonne, ate an orange scone and died from an allergic reaction.  Everyone is a suspect, and I do mean everyone.  Yvonne was a mean and petty woman, roundly disliked by everyone.  Her husband had 2 mistresses, her neighbors despised her, and she stole design ideas from other scrapbookers, one of which won her a prestigious award.  Of course, Kiki took it upon herself to find out who murdered Yvonne, not because she liked the woman, but to clear her boss and co-worker of suspicion.  The book does take a couple of delightful detours, including a trip to a day spa (paid for by Kiki's mother in law) preceding an evening at a black tie charity ball.  Oh, and there's a hunky cop in this book, too, along with a hunky auburn haired groundskeeper at the spa (who reappears in the book).  Plus, it features Grace, a Harlequin Great Dane, and Gus, a Jack Russell Terrorist for whom Kiki is babysitting and receiving hazardous duty pay - with a strict warning that Gus was allowed to watch TV, but never Sesame Street, and especially not Elmo.  Lighthearted and fun.  4/5

Two dogs in one book.  Thor would approve.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Garden Tuesday

Yes, I know it's Wednesday.  I wasn't up to much of anything yesterday, and I really wanted to show you all this picture.

I took this on Independence Day, while we were shooting off fireworks.  OK, everyone saw fireworks that day, and ours are small.  But what I really liked was the effect of the flash on the underside of the leaves, turning them silver.

Happy Garden Tuesday on Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Weekend Sewing

This weekend, I decided to finish a dress I cut out a couple of weeks ago, before I decided I didn't want to sew anything.  I believe I had decided that I'd gained 4 pounds and was now a porker, or maybe I decided I wanted to do some reading, or something like that.  When I don't feel like doing something, it just doesn't happen, in any event.

Back to the real world.  Friday night I knocked out this simple A-line dress.  Seriously, it only takes a couple of hours (I've made a dozen or more last summer), and it's easy to wear. 

Since I had 3 yards of this lovely, soft rayon (from Fabric Mart, last summer, I believe, but it could be the summer before), and I hate to put fabric back, I also made another summer dress I've done a couple of times before.  This one is empire waisted with a full circle skirt (not that you can tell on the hanger, but I haven't worn it yet) and 3/4" wide straps.  I like this dress because it's so feminine.

I also did a little reading yesterday, and took Ryan for his first drive on a 4 lane non-divided road - Route 11 north, away from the "Big City".  He's now logged about 150 miles since getting his permit.  Mark always goes along for the ride when Ryan drives, and when I offer praise for something well done, Mark pipes up from the back seat, "YEAH!!!"  It's nice to have a little brother cheering you on, isn't it?

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and I hope you've all cooled down a little, as we have.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is perhaps the most well known passage in our Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776.

But what do we really know of life in 1776?  I was intrigued by an article I saw in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, and bought a Kindle book:

by Thomas Fleming
Kindle e-book

America was the most prosperous nation in the world, with the highest per capita income and the lowest taxes.  The famous Boston Tea Party was symptomatic of the trouble brewing, but it was not the catalyst, as we are lead to believe.  The men who came to be known as our founding fathers read transcripts of meetings of Parliament, and became aware that the British Government intended to levy huge taxes upon us.  And so began a revolution.

In 1776, America was a melting pot, with only approximately 60 percent of the inhabitants of British descent.  There were large, prosperous cities, with tavern keepers, merchants and lawyers at the top of society.  Land owning farmers did well, too, usually being able to sell 40% of their harvests for cash.  In America, there was a thriving middle class, unlike in the rest of the world, and there was great opportunity for upward mobility.

Oh, and George Washington didn't have wooden teeth.  There were no dentists in America, and people's teeth often rotted out because they drank their tea with enormous amounts of sugar, as well as eating sweet treats.  For the rich, dentures were made from hippopotamus teeth; poorer people had dentures made from the teeth of other animals.

This was a short book, but I'm glad I paid the $3 to buy it.  It was a reminder of where we started, and how we have traveled to where we are today.  And, as was said, the founders gave us a republic, if we can keep it.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Spirea

I bought about 20 junipers from a local garden center at least a decade ago (not a big box place, just a little local place).  The woman felt badly that I wasn't buying flowers, so she gave me 2 of the puniest little bushes I'd ever seen for free.  They were a good 8" tall and might have had 3 branches.  But they filled in, and she was right.  They produce flowers all summer long, right next to my front steps.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Month of Sewing

All from the same piece of fabric.  Last November, I went fabric shopping in Philly with GMarie and my daughter.  One of the pieces I got was a very pale pink knit, suitable for summer.  So, winter being upon us at that time, the knit got set aside.  It turned out I bought 5 yards of it.  That's because the clerk at JoMar was very strange.  With the first piece I handed him to cut, I asked for 3 yards, and he said, "No."  Then  repeated myself, and he kept saying "No."  After the third refusal, I asked why he wouldn't sell me this fabric, and he said, "Because there's not 3 yards there."  Well, you could have told me sooner, doofus!  So thereafter, I just told him to give me whatever was left of the fabrics I selected.  And so I ended up with a bit over 5 yards.

First up was a practice dress for the McCalls 6462 I bought earlier this year.  I want it in a pink stripe, but I wanted to try it first in something I have in plentitude.

I like it well enough, but I need to tighten the sleeve substitutes, because they just slide down.  I also feel that it needs shoulder straps to make it more stable.  Last, since it's designed for knit fabrics, I don't understand the need for a zipper.  It just goes over the head without it.  So at least I know what I'll change when I make it from the pink stripe.

Next up was a V1250, the darling of the sewing world last summer.  It's still freakin' adorable.

Then a princess seamed summer dress.  Fluffy and fun.

Then a little bolero jacket from this fabric, which goes with all 3 of these dresses.  Evenings here are chilly, usually under 65 no matter the daytime heat, and if we go out, often the air conditioning is too much for me.  So this makes the perfect accessory for all of these dresses.

There was 1/2 yard left, just enough for a cami, shown with the jacket above.  That's a lot of stuff from one chunk of fabric, all because the doofus just said "No," instead of explaining why I couldn't have 3 yards of the striped fabric.

These were my projects in late May and June; there's more on the drawing board, but we'll see how life goes.  Hope you all had a great weekend, and are staying out of the blistering heat covering the country right now.