Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thorsday Musing

It's been a busy day today; I've been out and about most of the day (in contrast to my normal work from home routine).  I did see a sign on the Gourmet Diner which expressed a great sentiment, driven home all the harder by yesterday's tragic loss of Mango:

Friends are the cement which holds the world together.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In Memoriam: Mango

My heart is breaking over the loss of a Relentlessly Huge friend.  Mango crossed the Rainbow Bridge early this morning.  I know the heartbreak his family feels over the loss of their Gentle Giant.  Please visit to offer your condolences.

Run free, old friend.  You and Thor have much visiting to do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Up On The Roof

My apologies if you're old enough to now have James Taylor echoing in your ear through the rest of this post.  We were up on the roof on Friday, while Dan was replacing a chimney cap.  And this is a little of what life looks like from 30 or 40 feet in the air.

You've seen my back lawn before, but never from this angle.
 Sunset is wonderful from my garage roof; it's also the only place from which I can look west without looking through trees.
 Bird sitting on the chimney.
 And another bird on another chimney.

I have no fear of heights, but why can we just wander around on our roof?  Easy.  It's a high pitch, with a big flat area on top.  This is the top of our garage roof, taken from the roof on the house.  So, no wandering around on the peak or kicking off slates, or anything like that.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

One Dress

I had an idea that the Vogue 1250 dress, which was very popular last year and continues to be, could be modified.  Specifically, the dress is very straight, and designed to be made from stretch knits.  Oh, and the construction of the back is really weird.  Astonishingly weird.  Those of you who have made it know what I mean.  I had a couple of ideas in mind, and set out last weekend to try a variation.

The first thing I did was to make the front in one single piece, instead of a piece with part of the back attached.  Then I made the back one unit, removing a u-shaped horizontal seam from right above the wearer's butt (which my dearly beloved said made me look "droopy", not something a girl wants to hear).  I added a little extra width for non-stretch fabric, and added 6 godets to give the skirt some fullness.  Finally, I cut the dress out of yellow gauze (left from a 14 yard long piece I bought maybe 2 or 3 years back....I still have 4 yards or so left), and stitched it up with a 22" long zipper up the back.

The verdict?  Well, I liked the idea, but I think the gauze was too stiff for this application.  Still, it's not awful.  I might even try it again from a softer fabric.  Next spring, maybe.

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Southern Peach Pie

This is another pie from my recent Wall Street Journal find, The United States of Pie.

Mrs. Kane, the author, notes that this should really be called "Southern Inspired Peach Pie," because southerners often use canned peaches in their peach pies.  And she called for fresh peaches, but I used frozen, because that's what I had.  So, here it is, in all its juicy and delectable glory.


Dough for 2 crusts (try my "best ever" ----->)
2 pounds (7 to 8) peaches, peeled and cut (I used 2.5 pounds frozen)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
2 tbsp butter, cut in small pieces

Peel and slice your peaches.  Or, use frozen, as I did:  Put the frozen peach slices in a strainer, and rinse to remove any frost.  Put the peaches in a bowl, and stir in 1/4 cup white sugar, cover, and let thaw in the refrigerator overnight.  When you're ready to proceed, line your pie plate with one pie crust (or use store bought 8" crust). If using frozen peaches, pour the liquid out of the bowl.  Into the peaches stir the sugar and almond extract.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon and salt.  Stir together, then spoon into your pie crust.  Dot the peaches with the butter.  Roll out the second crust, crimp the two together, cut slits into the top crust for vents, and put it in the oven at 425F for 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven to 375F, and continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes.  Let the pie cool before cutting, or it will fall apart.

Now, clearly, I'm not so good at crimping my crusts together.  Happily, the heating element in my new oven is hidden, so cleaning the sloppage off my oven floor isn't as horrid as it could be.  I also used a 10" pie plate instead of a 9" plate, so my baking time was less.  My dearly beloved says he doesn't often care for peach pie, because it's frequently too sweet, but he loved this. Happily, Dan left him a slice the next day, and he said it was even better on the second day.  Of course, the boys loved it, too, so this will go in the annals of "Mom had better make this again!!!"

And I'm thinking of making mass quantities of pie crust this weekend, and freezing them, so I can pretend I'm a competent pie maker at the drop of a hat.  Hey, if it works for the doughboy, it should work for me, right?  Hmmm.  Maybe I'll make a pictorial on how to use your food processor to make the Best Pie Crust Ever.  Or maybe not.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

Last year, the little boys bought one of their sisters the book Water for Elephants for Christmas.  Around that time, the movie of the same title was released on DVD.  I saw the movie then, and loved it, but only happened to find the book a week or 2 ago, and was very eager to read it.  So, for the few of you who don't know the story, here it is:

by Sara Gruen

Jacob Jankowski was either 90 or 93 years old (having forgotten what year it was, he can't remember how old he was, and does it really matter much, anyway?), living unhappily in a nursing home, having been put there by his children after the death of his beloved wife.  One day, there was much fuss and ado across the street, visible through the window, and a nurse explained that the circus was coming that weekend.  That night, Jacob was put at a dining table with a new resident, who made the claim that he had been in the circus, carrying water for elephants.  This threw Jacob into a tirade, because no man could haul enough water for an elephant.  It also caused him to recall a time about 70 years earlier, when he was in his final days in Cornell's veterinary school.  As final exams were beginning, Jacob was called out of class to the dean's office, and told that his parents had just been killed in a car crash, and he was required to go identify them.  He did so, and subsequently learned that, this being during the Great Depression, his father's house and veterinary practice were overmortgaged and his father had no money, thus there was no home for Jacob, and no practice for him to continue.  Despondent, Jacob ran away, hopped on a passing train that night, and found himself riding with a circus.  The next day, he was hired by the circus as a vet for the animals, thus beginning a 2 month stint with the circus.

The books moves seamlessly back and forth between Jacob's memories of the past and the reality of his present life.  My daughter saw the movie the day after she read the book, and was disappointed in the movie.  Having now read the book, I understand.  This was an excellent book (and the movie was quite fine, too).  I'll probably reread the book before it goes back to my daughter's room.  Highly recommended.  5/5

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jerusalem-ish Chicken

I read the Wall Street Journal every day.  Some days it's just the op-ed pages, some days I read the whole front section, and sometimes I have time for the whole paper.  Saturday is always one of those days.  And in the Personal Journal section they have nifty book reviews, recipes, and stuff you really don't want to buy (ceramic fish candlesticks for $1400 each, anyone?).  This chicken is adapted from one such book review.  It's not as written, because I didn't have some things (like arak and fennel bulbs and clementines), but here's my take on it:


1 oven stuffer roaster, butterflied
6 tbsp orange juice
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 orange, unpeeled, sliced very thin
1/2 cup cold water
3 tbsp cornstarch

In a bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, sugar and salt.  Add the olive oil and whisk hard to combine them.  Add the pepper, thyme and fennel seeds.  Put your chicken in your roasting pan, pour half of this sauce over the chicken, arrange the orange slices over the entire chicken, pour the remainder of the sauce, and roast as you usually do.  When the chicken is done, remove the orange slices from the top, pour the liquid from the roasting pan into a saucepan, and add a couple of large handfuls of ice.  Let it sit for a few minutes, then scoop the ice and fat off the top of the pan.  Heat on the stove until it reaches a boil, then turn it down to a simmer while you cut the chicken.  Whisk the cornstarch into the cold water, add to the sauce, and cook until it thickens.  Serve with rice and orange wedges, if desired.

I liked this chicken.  My boys were all enthusiastic about the chicken, and, in particular, the sauce.  My dearly beloved was less than impressed.  I think it's because this was on the sweet side, and he just doesn't like sweet food.  Dessert, yes, but not "real" foods which are sweet.  So I'm afraid I won't be doing this chicken again.

But if this appeals to you, and the Middle Eastern style of cooking appeals to you, the new cookbook which will be published "soon" is Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Cars

 Who says cars don't belong on Garden Tuesday?  I think they qualify if they're parked on the lawn, acting as part of the landscape.

I found these cars on the lawn of our town hall when driving one of the boys to the dentist ahead of the antique show here recently.  It does make sense that they're part of an antique show, in addition to being part of the landscape, right?

First up, an old Rolls Royce.  Must be from the 1930s.

I have no idea what this one is, but it looks like the late 1940s to me.
 This one is a Packard from the 1950s; my dearly beloved recognized it.  (For the record, I thought it was an old Chevy.  Shows what I know.)
 And a 1930s Packard.  Just look at the suicide doors on that baby!
I'm glad the antique show organizers got people to bring their pampered antique cars for the rest of us to enjoy, and hope you've enjoyed this slightly off-beat Garden Tuesday!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Orange Sherbet

....because what says "Feed me ice cream!" like a chilly September day, when autumn is definitely on the way?

I was browsing through my Good Housekeeping cookbook (copyright 1986, BTW), and found a section on frozen desserts.  One of the first entries was orange sherbet.  I do love sherbet, and orange is my favorite, so I decided that meant that my dearly beloved also wanted orange sherbet.  Yes, that's how it works around here: If I want something, that means he wants it  And vice versa.  It's worked out pretty well for the past 33 years, so I see no reason to change the system.  Anyway, the recipe you've been waiting for all summer (or, for Carol and Hsin-Yi Down Under, and Mickle in NZ, a welcome to summer)....


1 cup milk
1 envelope unflavored gelatine
1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp salt
4 cups cold milk
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp very finely chopped orange peel, optional
4 drops yellow food coloring, optional
2 drops red food coloring, optional

Put the 1 cup of milk in a sauce pan, and sprinkle the gelatine over it.  Let it sit for a minute or 2 to soften.  Put the saucepan on a burner set to medium heat, and stir gently with a wire whisk to dissolve the gelatine.  Add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time, stirring and heating until each addition is dissolved.  Stir in the salt and remove from the heat.  Let the mixture sit away from the heat for 5 minutes (that's a good time to gather the other ingredients).  Whisk in the remaining milk, then the orange juice concentrate, lemon juice, and, if desired, the orange peel and food coloring.  Whisk until well combined.  Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so until it's cold again, then whisk to recombine (it will have begun to separate).  From there, proceed one of two ways:  Either process in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer's direction, or pour into a shallow baking pan, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the freezer.  Stir with your whisk every half hour or so to break up the ice crystals (so the sherbet will be smooth).  When it's "soft serve" consistency, transfer your sherbet to the storage container you're going to keep it in (my favorite is the Pampered Chef batter bowl, which has a nice solid handle) and let it harden completely.

I changed this recipe from its original format to use orange juice concentrate instead of orange juice, and it really increased the flavor of the sherbet.  I also added food coloring so my husband couldn't gripe that it wasn't the right color.  And, I assure you, it was delicious.  What a great way to celebrate the end (or beginning) of summer!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Nut Bars

Did you all think I've stopped cooking?  Me, too.  Actually, I haven't been playing much with experimental foods, because my pea sized brain is occupied with so many other things.  So I write book reviews and take pictures of the yard instead.  Anyway....

I found this recipe in a Good Housekeeping cookbook I scored at a used book sale a while back.  I thought it would be like my blondie recipe, only bigger, so I changed it up a bit to suit me, but it had a more cake-like consistency.  That didn't stop the boys from finishing them in a heartbeat!


1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine or butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg beaters
1 cup walnuts (optional)
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Beat the margarine and brown sugar until combined.  Add all of the other ingredients except the walnuts and/or chocolate chips, and beat until smooth and bright tan, about 2 minutes.  Stir in walnuts and/or chips, and spread in a greased 13x9 pan - I used my Pampered Chef stoneware pan, and it was marvelous!  Bake at 350F for 28 to 32 minutes, or in a convection oven at 350F for 24 minutes.  Let them cool before serving (if your family will keep their grubby mitts to themselves that long).

I put walnuts in all of my pan, but chocolate chips in only half, because (a) I don't like them, and (b) they're loaded with cholesterol.  Plus, my dearly beloved only likes chocolate chips in actual chocolate chip cookies.  You can see the texture of these nut bars here!  Like I said, my boys had plenty for dessert, then snacked at the balance of the pan after breakfast and after school the next day.  They lasted until almost 4.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Double Thorsday Book Review, c. 1910

This week's Thorsday book reviews both involve 1910; one was a real book, and one was a Kindle book (but also available in real book format).

Mary Roberts Rhinehart
copyright 1910

Attorney Jack Knox is a 35 year old bachelor attorney.  One day, the daughter of Allan Fleming, a corrupt politician, walked into Jack's office to hire him to find her father.  The only family she had was a pair of elderly spinster aunts, and Jack implored Miss Fleming to go stay with them while he searched for her father.  While she was at her aunts' house, and Jack was there to guard them lest the threat against Mr. Fleming be extended to his daughter, with whom Jack was smitten, Aunt Jane disappeared, along with several valuable pearls which had been in her sister's safe.  This story turns around a couple of times; Jack is warned against intervening in this case, and more corrupt city officials are drawn into the fray.  The White Cat is a social club to which Allan Fleming and others belonged, and which Jack ultimately suspects may have something to do with the case.  In addition to being a good mystery, again, I found it entertaining to note the differences between life in 1910 and today.  Available for free on Kindle, if you want to read it, and probably free for the Nook, too.  4/5.

by Robert Kerr
Copyright 2009

Joe and Linda Murphy live in Marshalltown, Iowa with their 3 children in a 1908 Victorian house which they completely restored, down to having the front door, which had been replaced but was found behind the furnace in the basement, repaired for rehanging.  Linda went all out on this restoration, furnishing the house with antiques down to the china, a mannequin dressed in 1909 garb gracing one corner of the bedroom, and framed valueless stock certificates dating to around 1900.  When the story begins, Joe has just picked up the restored front door, and hangs it.  However, since they don't have the original skeleton key to this door, they left it unlocked and ajar that night.  At midnight that night in June 2009, several members of the family heard the door slam shut, presumably blown closed.  When they arose the next morning, Joe discovered that things were different when he went outside for his morning newspaper; he thought the date of June 1909 was a joke, and chased away the milkman, thinking the guy was trying to pull a trick on him.  Ultimately, after looking out windows and realizing that the mature trees they were accustomed to seeing between the house and the courthouse were just small, and they came to realize that they had indeed been transported back to 1909.  The family cashes in one stock certificate  to buy 1909 style clothing and tries in vain to be returned to 2009.  Ultimately, after becoming friendly with Dr. Fischer next door, and his housekeeper, Mrs. Clarke, they settle down to life in 1909, and gradually conclude that they've been sent to prevent some occurrence.  This was a good story; I did enjoy the family's realization that nothing was terribly different between 1909 and 2009, other than electronic entertainment, and the reaction of the 16 year old daughter and 14 year old son to high school 100 years before their time (they were stupidly emphasizing penmanship and grammar, for instance).  If you choose to read this book, pay close attention to the first part of the first chapter; it is key to understanding the last chapter.  The biggest problem that I had with this book is that in 1909 houses did not have skeleton keys on their entry locks:

This is my entry door from 1923, and it's the same handle/lock as on houses from 1909 (We have considered buying houses from that era)(and, no, I don't do well at polishing my brass hardware; the green patina adds character).  But I suppose the author had to have something odd about the door to aid in causing the family to be transported back in time, and they didn't make a big deal of the whole issue, other than noting that the key didn't exist (they replaced the key when they got to 1909).  Overall, a fast and fun read; 4/5

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Garden Tuesday....On Wednesday

Sunday afternoon, I glanced out my kitchen window to see bright sunshine on the tree trunks, and a black, stormy sky.

When I got outside, I discovered that the sky to the northeast was still bright blue, while due north there must have been some massive storms about.

Within 10 minutes of taking these pictures, all sun was gone, the sky was pitch black, and rain poured down.  The temperature dropped 15 degrees in 15 minutes - most impressive!

Happy Garden Wednesday, everyone; I hope your thunderstorms are entertaining for you!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2001

Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.


On the eleventh anniversary of the horrific attacks upon America, remember the immortal words of Machiavelli, more commonly stated thus:  "Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it."

I will never forget.

Friday, September 7, 2012

First Day of School

On Wednesday, Ryan went off to school, and Mark set about opening his box from Calvert School for 8th grade.  Holy Cow, when did my baby get to be that old?  Anyway...

Calvert School sends everything you need.  We're doing their rigorous 8th grade course this year, with Algebra I for extra fun.  And here we are, with Mark starting his Algebra on the first day of school.

These are all of the school books we got.  I ordered the grammar workbook separately, to avoid fights over making the child write out sentences from the textbook.  He's been quite good at grammar anyway, so as long as he can identify the parts of speech, correct punctuation, etc, etc, etc, why create extra busywork and hard feelings?  Ryan cheered vigorously on his brother's behalf because they revamped the reading curriculum, eliminating David Copperfield.  To be fair, while the bones of the story are good, since Dickens was paid by the word, he can have a tendency to ramble for 50 pages where 5 would have sufficed.  Sorry, Sue, I know you love Dickens, but to a 13 year old boy, those extra 45 pages of long-windedness several times in the book are really hard to stomach.  Some of these books can be switched in lieu of the classics (Johnny Tremain, Prince & the Pauper), and I may do so.  But I have at least a month to decide.

Not shown in the pictures is the "gold" of the Calvert Homeschool program: the Lesson Manuals.  That's how I can get through this.  They tell me what to cover every day, what to discuss, give me an introduction to each subject's daily lesson, and questions to ask for comprehension.  And I know that in the end, my little guy will know more than his peers starting high school, which is great comfort to me.

Ryan's Trigonometry teacher recognized his last name, and inquired as to whether he has 3 older sisters; we were all greatly amused that the teacher remembered them, especially since he had 2 of them in different classes in the same school year, and it took him until March to realize that they were sisters, and that they were both related to the one he'd had the year before.  Ryan was also amused to report that in the first day of Chemistry class, the teacher was explaining that in case of something going awry, there is an emergency shower located in the classroom.  However, there is no emergency loofah; Ryan did ask.

So, we're somewhat settled back into the school rhythm.  Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Double Thorsday Book Review

Today, I'm bringing you two books by the same author!  Fun, right?  I happened upon them for the Kindle, and enjoyed the first one so much that I went back and got the second.

By Phil Edwards

Jake Russo is a reporter for a New York paper who was reassigned to Florida, to write about retirement communities for said paper.  When he lived in New York, Jake was a fat guy; his editor refused to believe that Jake had taken up running and lost substantial weight after moving to Florida.  (I don't really think this is relevant to the book, it's just a nice detail that helps us to like Jake more, I guess.)  So, when reporting about an event at one retirement community, an old lady told him that she knew a secret about the owner of this community that he wanted no one to know, that pertained to planned development in the area.  Jake agreed to come meet with her in her apartment the next day, along with his 80 year old photographer, Gary; she was dead when he got there.  Another murder followed, along with an attempt on Jake's life.  Oh, and Jake became romantically involved with the pretty, young event planner at said community (an unbelievable occurrence, according to his editor).  This was a fast-paced and entertaining mystery, not too deep, but with enough plot twists to keep the reader interested.  4/5

By Phil Edwards

Jake and Gary have been transferred to New Orleans to cover the restaurant scene for their New York paper, leaving Jake's girlfriend and Gary's wife behind in Florida.  The book opens as Jake and Gary are going to a grand opening for a new restaurant in a seedy area, which promises to be unlike any other restaurant around.  The decor would support that: one wall is painted with a Periodic Table of the Elements, and the cuisine is supposed to be "molecular gastronomy," whatever that might be.  The opening occurs, but later that night, the owner, who is highly allergic to seafood, is murdered.  Police declared it an accidental death, because he ate gumbo, but the owner's girlfriend convinced Jake and Gary otherwise.  This book is a fun romp in New Orleans, with Jake and Gary investigating the owners of competing restaurants.  It also plays up Gary a little more than the first book.  For instance, Gary is a great mangler of truisms, such as, "That is the proof of pudding."  Gary also has started a food blog - which became a real sensation on the web.  In the end, of course, Jake and Gary solve the mystery, but Jake has developed a problem with his grilfriend.  Gary urged him to return to Sarasota and fix it, saying, "Love is a river and you can't step in it twice."  Again, it's not Agatha Christie, but it is fun.  4/5

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Misc. Summer Sewing

I made 2 sun dresses on Saturday.  It was sunny and 75, and made me feel like summer was still here.  So I drafted this dress based on a cami I made earlier this summer, or maybe it was last summer; I forget.

Sadly, I drew this too small for me.  So it will have to go to someone else, and I'll have to remake it next summer.  It ha6 6 godets, and is really cute; the front drapes a little, as is "stylish" this summer.

After I finished this, and discovered it's too snug, I started again, with a pink stripe.  But it was getting late, and I didn't want to fool around with 6 godets, so I just made 2 larger ones, and set one in each side seam.
  It doesn't fluff as much as the blue one, so I'm not as pleased with it as I could have been.  But my dearly beloved opined that it's cute, so it'll join the rotation for next summer.  Both of these started with horizontal stripes, so I cut them on the bias.  Overall, I'm pleased with these efforts, and put my newly-drafted pattern pieces carefully in an envelope to be used next summer.

Earlier this summer, I made a couple of tops from plum fabric for Faye's sewing challenge.  There was enough of that plum cotton, which was really soft and wonderful, left over for an a-line dress.  Here it is, made from McCall's M7443.  I've made this a number of times before, and it's comfortable and easy.  What more is there to say about a pattern?

Also earlier this summer, I finally put into motion an idea I saw in a catalog a good 10 or more years ago.  It's just the M7443 dress, but with 3 straps coming from each side, going to different points on the back.  My hair was a mess, it being 11PM when I took this picture, and I didn't move it enough to show the straps, but you get the idea.  This was a woven cotton, and it's the same exact shade of pale pink as 2 dresses and a tank top I made earlier this summer, with a jacket to match, so the jacket works with this dress, as well.
So, that's about it for summer sewing.  At some point, I'll feel inspired for fall sewing.  But I think next weekend is going to be dedicated to trying to put a few years' worth of photos in order in the new photo albums I just received from the guy in brown.  Of course, that means editing and printing and.....

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Garden

One of the nifty things about living in a house built in 1928 is all of the oddities that exist in and around it, which simply aren't in new houses.  Our walled garden is an example.

Don't you just love this archway?  There's an oak gate on it, with a latch, which the lawn service never fails to leave open.  Oh, well, it's only keeping the deer out anyway.  And on the inside are a pair of burning bushes, which we've trimmed so they form an arch inside.  If it weren't raining outside, I'd have taken a picture from inside, too.  Well, maybe next week.

Hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend.  School starts here tomorrow, so it's a little hectic!

Happy Tuesday!