Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Garden Tuesday....On Wednesday

Look what we found when we woke up yesterday morning.  The first snow of the season dusted us with about 3".

 There's a lot of color to be seen in a snowscape, isn't there?

Remember Old Madison from this summer?  The old street running through my yard?  Well, maybe this makes it more evident that it was indeed once a toad.
 Looking skyward is good, too.

 And the sunrise through the snow covered trees this morning was pretty nice, too!
Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone, even though it's Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Well, another holiday in the books.  It was hectic, and enjoyable, as usual.

First, the obligatory picture of everyone in attendance:

That's right, I only fed 16 people this year.  2 who were expected didn't come, and 2 surprise guests did come.

Of course, you only came here to see the turkey.  Here's one of the two; the other looked about the same.

And here's the table, with people sitting down and getting ready to stuff themselves silly.  After all, what else would someone want to do on Thanksgiving?

Hope you all had as great a day!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Week Food, and the Meaning of Home

Because I'm just too lazy to type it, here's what's on the menu for Thanksgiving.

(click to biggify the lists, if you really want to read them).

As you can see, the planned Cranberry Pie became an Apple Pie (or, probably 2).  The recipe I tried this weekend didn't work out.  I'll try it again in a week or 3, adjust the sugar by a huge proportion, and then report it to you.  No sense wasting everyone's time during holiday preparations.

And here's what we're eating the rest of the week.  I don't go off the schedule here, because I'd then have to crawl under the table and hide, being unable to regain my bearings.

And, in case you wonder, here's the list of what the restaurant supply house will be bringing.  No frozen veggies this time; I just can't deal with them.

The Wall Street Journal reviewed a new book called The Meaning of Home this weekend.  In her opening paragraph, reviewer Elizabeth Lowry said, in part, "The idea of a house probably began with the roof...The medieval invention of the chimney, which replaced the simple oculus, or hole in the roof, that previously served to vent smoke from the domestic hearth, was arguably the next most important architectural innovation, followed closely  by the precursor of the modern floor...."

My parents moved a lot.  An absurdly large number of times, truth be told, for no reason.  So the only place I can consider "home" is this house.  And I want my children to forever think of this big white house when they speak of "home".  That's part of what Thanksgiving is all about: home, family, friends and food.

And, to answer Karin's question, I'm probably feeding 16 for Thanksgiving, although that could go as high as 19.  That's not too bad, by my standards.

And the Apple Sack Pie was from The United States of Pie Book, an omission pointed out by Karin.

So, tell me, what do you think of when you say "Home"?  And what does Thanksgiving mean to you?  My very best Thanksgiving wishes to all of you, even if I don't get back here for a week.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Apple Sack Pie

The manager at my restaurant supply house called me this morning to tell me that Thanksgiving is next week, so I'd be sure to get my order in.  Wasn't that nice of him?  Of course, that means you all should be planning, too!

I found this recipe in my United States of Pie book, and knew I had to try it.  Mostly, I had to try it because I knew it would drive Ryan nuts trying to figure out why on earth I was baking a paper bag.  It was indeed a lot of fun, and, naturally, everyone enjoyed apple pie.  So, if you're thinking of apple pie for Thanksgiving, this one would be a good choice: moist and juicy!


1 bottom crust (store bought or try my "Best Ever")

4 or 5 large apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cornstarch

Streusel topping:
1 stick butter or margarine, chopped in chunks
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Roll the crust out into a 9" pie plate (I used a 10" pie plate).  Peel and slice the apple, and stir gently with the rest of the filling ingredients.  Scoop into the pie plate.  In a mixing bowl, chop together the streusel ingredients, using a pastry cutter or 2 forks, until it forms pea sized grains.  Sprinkle evenly over the apple filling.  Place a brown grocery bag on a large baking tray, put the pie inside, fold down so it won't touch the rack above it, fold the bag closed and staple it closed.  Bake for 45 minutes, then remove from the oven and cut away the bag.  Return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so, until it's browned and the filling is bubbling.  Let it cool some before you cut it, or the filling will sag all over the place.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, as desired.

I know I took a picture of the bag in the oven, but I swear my camera ate it.  So the pie alone will have to suffice.

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Devil's Food Cake

In reading the Sunday papers, all of the so-called food experts (and why are they experts anyway?  Do they feed a dozen people every night?) say you should have one cake and 2 pies for Thanksgiving dinner.  I do believe that my hungry hordes would say that was way too meager a dessert selection, so I make much more, as you may have noticed.  Besides, dessert makes everyone ecstatic.  A great meal makes them happy, but everyone remembers dessert.

So, if you're going to just make one cake, my boys would respectfully suggest that this is the one you should choose.  I found it in the red plaid cookbook, and I've made it at least 493 times since July, in an effort to create the very best variation for you.


2 cups flour
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
6 tbsp milk powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup egg beaters or 2 eggs
1-1/2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350F.  Put all of the dry ingredients into a bowl, and stir with a wire whisk until the mixture is light tan.  (Side note: this has the same effect as sifting all of the dry ingredients together, without the bother of using the little turn-the-handle thingy.  Use this trick any time you have to sift stuff.  Another Marjie Time Saver.)  Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, beat at low speed until combined, then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour into a greased 13x9" pan or a bundt pan.  Bake the 13x9 for 35 to 38 minutes, or the bundt for 38 to 42 minutes.

(That's all that was left the next morning.  Should be testimony to its goodness.)

Important notes:  You can use regular sugar.  The confectioner's sugar gives it a finer grain.  Reduce the flour by 2 tbsp and add 2 tbsp cornstarch when using regular sugar if you want, but the boys really didn't notice.  If you don't have dry milk, you can replace the water with milk.  You can use eggs or egg beaters with the same texture result; 3 egg whites will make the cake a little stickier, but just as flavorful.  Lastly, the oil.  The recipe called for shortening.  Shortening makes a smoother cake, oil makes a flakier cake, butter or margarine makes the cake flakier and a little more flavorful.  The boys concluded oil gave it the best flavor and texture combination overall.

Cool the cake as per your usual procedure, then frost.  I like vanilla buttercream frosting best, but the boys are always clamoring for chocolate buttercream.  The choice is yours.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I'm Still Here!

Did you think I fell of the planet?  Sorry.  Here's a little of what's been going on.

Sewing:  I joined Faye's "Carnival of Skirts" challenge.  It was simple.  Make 2 skirts in the last 2 weeks of October.  Most skirts just take a couple of hours, so this should have been simple, right?  Um, sure.  I knew I had a piece of teal fabric which I'd bought in excess of 15 years ago at the old Wal-Mart.  You remember the old Wal-Mart here, right?  That's the one where they blasted out the hillside to put it in, and then boulders took up crashing down behind it.  And then they crashed onto the storeroom at the back of the store.  And then the corporate office sent in a couple of engineers 3 days before Christmas, who looked around and chased everyone out of the building at 2 in the afternoon, making them abandon their carts of stuff and everything.  Probably 4 or 5 years later they opened the current Wal-Mart; it's been here a good 10 years.  So, the fabric's been here a while.  Anyway, it was a 3 yard piece.  So I cut out an a-line skirt, from a new pattern I bought, McCalls 3341.  I didn't think it was a-line enough, nor was it truly straight, like a pencil skirt.  So I was somewhat disappointed, and my dearly beloved didn't like it as well as he likes most of my skirts.

Then I cut an old favorite, Simplicity 5914, out of the rest of the fabric.  Note the words "old favorite."  I knew I'd like it.  It made me feel better.

Then i fixed the neckline on the dress I'd made and worn on Mark's birthday.  I had bound the neckline, and hated how it turned out.  So I turned the binding under and stitched it in place.  This is the "before" picture; there's no after.

(That's a series of 3 pretty crappy looking pictures, isn't it?)

I also cut out dresses and a jacket from a 6 yard piece of maroon velour.  I started the jacket, and will probably finish everything Friday and Saturday, because I'm really excited about this project for some reason.  It's the first time in months something has caught my fancy, so I'll go for it. (Yes, I keep my mending and works in progress in a basket.  Otherwise, they'll migrate and overtake the entire house.)

We got up yesterday to maybe 1/2" of wet sloppy snow on the ground.  It was 60 degrees and sunny on Monday, so I went back to bed to hide from the signs of winter.  No picture.

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week already?  I'm spending lots of quality time with my pad and pencil, drafting up menus for the week and for the day.  I also need to put together an order to be placed on Monday for a food delivery Tuesday.  Recipes for cake and pie are coming soon, I promise.  I just need to get organized.

Lastly, I'm sending sympathy to Sue on her loss of Samba.  This is the second dog she's lost this year, and I know she's devastated; they are her children, and the joy of her life.

Hope you're all having a more orderly week than I am!  I'll try to return soon!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thorsday Book Review

No, you're not confused.  This is Friday.  Some weeks go like that.

by Paul Wornham

Johnston C. Thurwell was a billionaire businessman and philanthropist who owned an apartment in New York City and a huge lakefront mansion in upstate New York.  One snowy January day, he summoned each of his 3 children and 9 other people to his mansion, and sent limos for each of them.  Each of the children was greatly displeased to see the others, and the other people were perplexed as to why they were there, since they had believed they were summoned for a private meeting.

Once all of the attendees arrived, they were seated at a conference room table, in pre-assigned seats, and Thurwell's lawyer, William Bird opened the session.  They were told that Johnston Thurwell was dead, and they were there to settle upon their own inheritances.  The negotiations would begin the next day, and for each day that they did not reach consensus, they would lose 20% of the fortune to Thurwell's charity.  Thurwell had left sealed envelopes in his lawyer's safe, labeled as to what the lawyer should do in case of any contingency.

This is the only book this author has written, and it was wonderful.  I truly didn't know where the story was going as it progressed, but the backstories for each of the attendees were well developed, and everything made more and more sense as the story went along.  There were a few surprises, and it had a very satisfactory ending.  Although I would never have dreamed this up (and I'm not wealthy by any means),  I could absolutely see a wealthy man who didn't like most of the people around him very well setting up his will in this way.  And it made for a great read.

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's Election Day!

And we all went down to the polling place, the 4 voters and 2 observers, in a giant parade.

I was jealous at midnight when the 2 tiny towns in New Hampshire voted at midnight.  I wanted to vote at midnight.  Of course, those towns have a total of 47 voters, so it's much more reasonable that they would all show up at midnight than to think our approximately 1200 voters would all be as loony as me.

I'm making an Election Day Cake for dessert.  And we'll check in on the returns around 10 or so.

Hope you all voted in all of your best interests, and not just for one small aspect of each candidate's platform.  Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm Back From the Land of Darkness!

Monday was my little guy's 13th birthday.  My daughter decorated his cake.

The girls made us "Hurricane Hats" to ward off the storm.  It didn't work.

(I made that pink dress the weekend before, but wasn't pleased with the neckline.  It's in the "redo pile" now).

The kids went outside to dance in the warm wind around 11 PM.

But at 11:30, we lost power.  Someone forgot to tell the power company that we had our Hurricane Hats, and were safe from power outages.

This was the biggest damage we suffered: the loss of half of a pine tree.  There were lots of small branches down, 4 pickup truck loads, to be exact.  Gathering and burning them kept the boys occupied while we had no power.  We were not amused; to be exact, we were cold, grubby and cranky.

I did manage to keep myself calm by reading a book, Mary Stewart's Touch Not The Cat, by oil lamp.  I'm appalled that it took me 3 days to read a lousy 300 page book.

But the power did come back on Wednesday night; the neighbors across our back fence still have no electricity, and have been told not to expect lights before 11PM Sunday.  And the cursed storm really didn't even hit here!  I want a generator for Christmas.

Happy Weekending, everyone!