Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Skies

Pictures taken a couple of days before the dreaded hurricane arrived.

I'm setting this up on Monday, because I have no idea what will be going on Tuesday!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Miscellany, Pre-Hurricane

Well, everyone's really excited about this hurricane that's supposed to be coming our way.  As for me, I have my oil lamps on the kitchen counter, filled the bathtubs with water (for flushing and washing), all of my pitchers are filled with drinking water, and I got up early to bake Mark's birthday cake.  Hopefully my planning ahead means we won't lose power.

So, for miscellany....

Who else gets annoyed at the stupid prices of wrapping paper?  Well, I found some for sale at a local chocolatier's "seconds" shop (and with premium chocolate, who cares if it's pretty, because it's still decadent).  For about $40 for all of this, who's complaining?

One of the girls bought us a "Cash Cab" calendar last year; it's good solid family entertainment for all of us to check the questions every day.  Friday's question related to a very obscure book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves:

I happen to have that book.  If you're a grammar nerd, it's wickedly funny.

Here's the teaser, from the back cover.

This weekend, I finally finished a dress which I cut out a good month ago.  I'm wearing it today, for Mark's birthday; pictures Wednesday (or some time).  I also cut out a skirt for Faye's Carnival of Skirts challenge; if the power goes down, maybe I'll just sew it up on my treadle machine.  Or maybe not; it might be too dark in here.

Happy Monday, everyone!  Hope not too many of you are disrupted by this storm.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

Mango Momma reviewed this book a couple of weeks back, and, a few days later, I found it at a used book sale.  How remarkable is that?

by Edna Ferber
copyright 1924
360 pages

This is the story of Selina Peake De Jong.  The daughter of a gambler whose mother died when she was young, Selina was raised traveling from city to city in the US, spending a few years during high school in Chicago.  Her father was shot accidentally when Selina was 18, and she moved to a small, Dutch town in Illinois to become a school teacher, where she married the tall, blond Pervus De Jong.  "So Big" is her son, Dirk, so called by Selina until Dirk was about 10 (because of the game all mommies play with their children....you know, "How big is baby?"  "So Big!").  There isn't a lot of action in this book, no mystery, nothing like that.  Instead, it's the story of Selina's life from about 1885 on for about 40 years, and the parallel story of Dirk's life for the latter half of the book.  It's the encouragement of a neighbor's son to follow his dream to become an artist, instead of following in his father's path to farming.  It's a young widow's path to expanding her farm and support her family.  It's the story of a mother encouraging her son to pursue his education and do what he loves.  And it's the story of a man's path through life, changing career course midstream.

This book reminds us that life happens while we're making other plans.  And it's a vivid reminder that children will pursue their own lives regardless of the desires of their parents, which is as it should be.  It's a gentle story, enjoyable, and a nice read.  5/5.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Garden Tuesday: Autumn

Here's what we saw when wandering around our yard this weekend:

Autumn colors are coming!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Stapling, Not Sewing

I was going to sew this weekend.  But Friday night, my girls arrived home to celebrate my birthday a few days early, bearing gifts of chocolate and flowers.

Also on Friday, I spotted a dining set in the want ads for $60.  So on Saturday, the girls and I piled into Dan's truck, and went to buy it.  It was a great bargain, with a scalloped oval table top (and custom cut glass which fits over this top), 2 side chairs and 2 arm chairs.  Plus, it is a Basset set, so it isn't likely to fall apart next year.

Of course, the girls didn't care for the original tan velour seats, so a trip to buy new fabric was in order.  Mom's an expert at recovering chair seats, so, of course, Mom wielded the staple gun.  Everyone loved the results. (After on the left, before on the right).

The girls wanted the caning to be brighter, so we bought red stain, and they set out to change it.  Lots of tape was involved.

The end result was pretty nice, don't you think?

Since they came up in the small car, the girls could only bring 2 chairs back to Philly.  But I find that cheering, because it means they'll be forced to come back soon for the rest of their furniture!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Double Thorsday Book Review

I found these two books for my Kindle.  Actually, I read the first one and enjoyed it enough to make me want to get the second.  So, because they're related, you get two book reviews for the price of one!

By Paul Levine

Victoria Lord is a Yale educated, impeccably dressed, upper crust prosecutor, engaged to the Avocado King of South Florida.  Steve Solomon is a defense attorney who rents office space above a "modeling agency", barely graduated from the Key West School of law, whose father is a disgraced judge, and who "stole" his autistic nephew from the boy's druggie mother.  While facing each other in court, Steve pulled some stunt which caused Victoria to react, and the book opens with both of them jailed for contempt of court.  Of course, Steve won; Victoria was fired by the DA.  When a prominent young socialite is accused of murdering her older husband, both Victoria and Steve end up offering their services, and she hired them both.  Thus began their legal practice together.

Given their very different personalities and styles, Steve and Victoria clash incessantly, but they get the job done.  This book is a good legal thriller, and funny, to boot.  It doesn't get much better than that.

by Paul Levine

Solomon and Lord are an established law practice in this book, as well as a dating couple.  Bobby (the autistic nephew) still lives with Steve, who was granted legal custody of the boy.  And Steve Solomon's father is around much more, having decided to become an Orthodox Jew in this book.  The book opens with Steve finding a marlin stuffed through his door overnight, and learning that someone he defended who was nonetheless convicted is now out of jail, and on the radio as a shrink, threatening Steve, Victoria, Bobby and the Judge.  The book is another good legal thriller, with enough humor thrown in for good measure, while not detracting from the story.  Another excellent read.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Garden Tuesday on Wednesday

Late again.  Blame the IRS.  I had to send them a letter yesterday, and it took nearly all day to get it right.  Ah, you've got to love bureaucrats.

This was my courtyard yesterday morning.  Not much color out there yet, but it's coming.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Of Books

Today was one of the two fall book sales, and, of course, I took the little boys.  They got some books.  I, having pledged to not buy any more books because my shelves are on overload, only bought about 6.  One of them, which will be next on my "To Read" list, because it was recommended by Mango Momma, had markings indicating some of its history; I added our family library seal.

So, where do you fall on the marking of the ownership of books?  I know it's considered "damage" and "lowers the resale value" of the books.  But, really?  Do you think there is much resale value in books?   Take this set of books from the late 1880s.  The covers are nice, padded and worked, but the spines are in various stages of faded and worn.  Still, they're pretty books, which  is why I bought them.

But when I found inscriptions like this one inside, I just found them irresistible.  It makes me feel a little bit connected to the history of the books.  Someone gave these to his (wife or daughter or sister) nearly 130 years ago.  It doesn't matter who they were; the knowledge that these were selected with love makes them more special.

Am I alone in loving to see ownership markings inside the flyleaves of books?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thorsday Book Review: Wallace

This Thorsday book review is about a dog, so it's particularly appropriate.

I won this book from Nichole recently, and, although it took a while to arrive due to issues with the post office (who wonders why they can't break even?), it was worth the wait.

by Jim Gorant

The book starts off with three seemingly unrelated stories.  Two friends go out sailing on a lake in Minnesota.  The weather turns foul, the boat capsizes, and one doesn't return.  A college student named Roo (as in "Andrew", not Kanga's kid) meets his friend's girlfriend, Clara; their paths continue to cross for several years.  A cop named Brad Mirren receives a phone call from a cop in another town near Chicago, asking him to come to the pound.  And a pit bull puppy with one eye which is partially blue ties all of these stories together.

When the guy drowned on the lake in Minnesota, the police were called out to get into his home; inside they found two adult pit bulls and 6 puppies.  They were all friendly and bouncy, although the one with the partially blue eye stood by and mostly watched the others.  They were all sent to shelters, and ultimately placed for adoption; Brad Mirren was asked to take the puppy with the unusual eye.  He trained the dog, called Ranger, to ride around with him in his squad car, but after a while, the dog couldn't stand to be cooped up any more.  So he was taken to a "no kill" shelter in Minnesota.  Meanwhile, Roo and Clara became better friends, and ultimately a couple, and they both volunteered at the shelter where this pit bull had been placed.  At the shelter, the dog was named "Wallace" for a basketball player; Wallace was soon considered a "problem" dog.  Roo and Clara discovered that Wallace's problem was simply that he had very high energy levels, so they took him out for extensive play sessions as often as possible.

Roo learned about dog "weight training", where a harness is put on the dog, and weight is attached to the harness by ropes, so the dog pulls the weight along - sort of like an old fashioned oxen pull at a country fair, but on a very small scale.  Wallace excelled at that.  Ultimately, Roo and Clara took Wallace home, where Roo continued with Wallace's weight training, and then by happenstance discovered Doggie Flying Disc competition - like playing Frisbee, only more energetic.  Ultimately, Roo and Wallace began competing in Flying Disc with friends, and doing well.  The book tells the story of Wallace's transformation from troubled shelter dog to champion.  It ambles on at a nice pace, making the reader feel like a friend is telling a story.  There's no great drama, no suspense, no great humor, just a good story.  (OK, the description of one competition area looking like a tribe of Bedouins knocked over a Wal-Mart and set up camp was pretty funny, but there aren't many phrases like that.)  This was an inspiring story of a couple's love for dogs, and one man's dedication to making a high strung dog into a family member.

Wallace was featured in a magazine article, and even has his own website.  Of course, there are plenty of videos to be found if you google Wallace the pit bull.  And, certainly, be prepared to smile with pride at the accomplishments of Wallace and Roo!  4/5

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blueberry Pie

This recipe comes from my United States of Pie book.  It was really easy, and, of course, really good.


Dough for 2 crust pie
5 cups Maine blueberries (I used 2 pounds frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Roll out one pie crust, and line a 9" pie plate (I used a 10" pie plate), or use a premade one.  If using frozen blueberries, run them under cold water to thaw (unless you have the foresight to take them out of the freezer a couple of hours in advance, which I didn't).  In a large bowl, stir together the blueberries, sugar, flour and cornstarch until the berries are coated; add the lemon juice, vanilla and salt, and stir until combined.  Scoop into the prepared crust; be sure to scrape the bowl with a rubber scraper to get everything.  Roll out the second crust, and place atop the filling.  Crimp the pie edges together well, and cut 5 slits in the top crust for venting.  Optional, brush the top of the pie with cream, and sprinkle turbinado sugar on top of it to make it even prettier!  Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven's temperature to 375F, and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool completely before serving, or your pie filling will ooze out after you've cut it.

Everyone loved this.  They really loved it.

Of course, my dearly beloved told me, after it was done, that his mother's and grandmother's blueberry pies always got dark crusts on them, but that was OK, because blueberry pie is great.  He also told me that it's better if you bake it one day, and eat it the next.  I asked him how, from a practical standpoint, he would propose that I make that program work around here, with him and the boys devouring everything in sight.

And to answer Sue's question, if I could only have one of the two pie cookbooks I've just gotten, I suppose it would have to be The United States of Pie.  My reasoning is that A Year of Pie contains many recipes for non-dessert pies, and those are available from a wide variety of sources, whereas United States of Pie has lots of dessert pies you just won't find elsewhere.  But, given Amazon's pricing, I was quite happy to buy them both!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday's Thorsday Book Review...and Pie

Yep, it's been one of those weeks.  I feel like the week has been about 11 days long, and I still need another 3 or 4 days before it's over.  Blech.

So, it's a perfect time to review the second book about pie making which I found thanks to my friends at the Wall Street Journal.  (Seriously, I could spend a small fortune buying all of the books they review which I think would be entertaining, informative, or otherwise necessary to my life.  But that's a thought for another day.)

by Ashley English

This book about pie making is arranged by seasons: pies one would make in spring, summer, fall or winter.  It contains recipes for not just sweet pies, but also savory pies.  Some are baked in the oven, others have the filling cooked on the stove.  She writes extensively about how she chooses what pies to bake (by season, of course), that being the inspiration for the book.  There's lots of information about various types of pie plates and other equipment used to make pies, along with discussion of various ingredients used in crusts.  Of course, there are recipes for crumb-type crusts as well as pie dough, and an introduction to each season, and a little story about each pie.  The book includes lots of pictures, too, which is really wonderful for drool-inducing inspiration.  And, for me, one of the best features of the book is that, while it's soft covered, the covers are reinforced, and somewhat oversized, so the book is protected, and doesn't feel like it will fall apart in a year.  Amazon has it at a great price, if you're interested.

And, now, the inaugural pie from this lovely tome hails from the summer section....


9" Graham Cracker Crust
1 tbsp butter
1 pint blueberries (or 2 cups frozen blueberries thawed)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 pound (2 cups) ricotta
8 ounces cream cheese

Melt the butter in a pan.  Add the blueberries and cook until the berries start to release their juices.  Stir together the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl, then stir them into the blueberry mixture, along with the lemon juice.  Cook until the mixture is thickened to a jam-like consistency, remove from the heat and cool somewhat.  Cut the cream cheese into chunks, and stir it into the blueberry mix, along with the ricotta.  When combined, run through the food processor until smooth, and pour into the pie crust.  Top with additional fresh blueberries, if desired, and cool for a few hours until it's firm.

Confession is good for the soul:  I used a regular pie crust, baked and cooled, because I didn't have graham crackers or crumbs.  It was still excellent.  I used a 10" pie plate because that's what I have.  It was still excellent.  And I used frozen blueberries, and, you guessed it: this pie was excellent.

In summary:  Good Book.  Great Pie.  My guys want it again soon.  Happy weekending, everyone!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Garden Tuesday: From Two Angles

This is a corner in my driveway, where the driveway starts to go around the house to the garage in the back.

And this is the same corner from the roof.

Don't you just love the color of that dogwood?

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Not Much!

You might recall that I have a counter between my kitchen and breakfast room, open on both sides, which I call "the pass-through".  I set up trivets on the pass-through, and put the pans on the trivets so people can feed themselves.

You also need to know that there's a "harpoon" game that goes on around here.  Basically, that involves Dan chasing Ryan around with a plastic toy sword or axe, usually because Ryan has done some terrible thing, and Ryan ends up being harpooned with the sword.

So, one night after the dishes were off the pass-through, but the trivets were still in place, Ryan griped about emptying the dishwasher and making his own school lunch.  This was a harpoon-worthy occasion, and Dan arrived with the sword.  Ryan scrambled onto the pass-through, sat on the trivets, and broke a couple of the tiles.  (Of course, since they were from some store or other, the tiles were very thin.)  So, yesterday, the boys made a field trip to buy new tiles for my trivets, and made me a nice varied set.

All in all, I'm glad that the boys played "harpoon" that night, because my new set of trivets are just great!