Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thorsday Book Review

Warning:  Those of you who hold deep religious convictions should not read this book.  It is a "controversial religious/historical thriller."

by Carolyn McCrae
copyright 2010

Dr. Rebecca Monroe is researching what she calls "the smart gene", her premise being that some unknown prehistoric person/group settled at different points around the world, creating various pyramids and other ancient wonders, and that they were genetically different than other groups throughout the ancient world.  For her research, she's currently in an Amazonian jungle, undertaking a tribal ritual involving a big constricting type snake, when a US Special Forces team headed by Sgt. Brandt swoops in to rescue her and haul her to Paris.  Just before they arrive, there's a bombing at the Eiffel Tower, revealing a set of bones she believes belongs to a Biblical figure.

Rebecca leads Brandt and his crew through various European cities, chased by a shadowy organization known as "The Knot" in search of the ultimate Biblical scholar's quest: the final resting place of Jesus.  Of course, during this venture, The Knot is trying to kill off Rebecca, Brandt and his team, and recover from them the bones she's brought along from Paris.  Lopez, Brandt's go-to escape driver, interjects a great deal of levity into this book; he can fly or drive anything, and loves to travel at Indy-500 worthy speeds.  (At one point, he announced that he just invented "tunnel surfing", for example.  Gotta love the guy.)

Interspersed between these chapters are periodic chapters from 2000 years earlier, telling the story of the friendship between Jesus and Judas.  These chapters in particular may be offensive depending upon one's religious beliefs, and the conclusion at the end would be mind blowing if such a thing were discovered.

I really enjoyed this book.  Some of the action sequences seemed a mite over the top, but on the whole, the book worked well.  I liked it well enough that I'm reading its sequel, Havoc, right now.  4.5/5

(This is what Thor would be doing this week, in our yard).

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Garden Tuesday

My electrician had my power shut down yesterday (happily, it had warmed up to 40 degrees, so we didn't freeze), so Garden Tuesday didn't happen.  Monday, the boys had a day off from school due to sleet and freezing rain.  It made the rhododendron right outside my kitchen window pretty, and the rest of the yard messy.

Friday, January 25, 2013

White Cake with Boiled Frosting

This came from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I picked up at a used book sale a while back.  I felt like making a light cake, and, being low on confectioner's sugar, decided to try my hand at a boiled frosting.  After all, that's what the mixer's function in life is, right?


4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2-1/8 cups flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the egg whites with 1/2 cup sugar until stiff; set aside.  Beat together the shortening, sugar and salt; add the remaining ingredients and beat at low speed until combined, then at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Beat the egg whites in with the mixer at its lowest speed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Scoop the batter into 2 layer pans or a 13"x9" sheet pan (my choice)  Bake at 350F about 25 minutes for layers or 35 minutes for the sheet cake, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

See?  Despite all of the ingredients, it was pretty simple, right?


1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp light corn syrup
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract

Stir together the sugar, water, salt and corn syrup in a small saucepan.  Heat to a boil, stirring occasionally, then put a candy thermometer in it and cook without stirring to 260F (hard ball stage).  When the sugar mix starts to boil, start beating the egg whites until they are very stiff.  When the sugar mix reaches the hard ball stage, drizzle it slowly into the egg whites while beating at low speed.  Add the vanilla, then beat at high speed for about 5 minutes, until peaks form.  (Actually, you could probably use strawberry extract for a different flavor to the frosting, in contrast to the white cake, if desired).

All in all, this is a relatively low calorie dessert, and pretty tasty, too!  And, since I can't find the picture I took of it, here's a look at my front yard!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thorsday Book Review: Pooh Bridge

This was a Kindle book that I found at some point, and decided to read last week.  I was attracted to the name, because, really, who doesn't like Winnie the Pooh?

by Nigel Lampard
copyright 2012

Richard Blythe's young wife has recently died of cancer, leaving him with 13 year old twins who are away at boarding school.  He decided to go hiking/camping for a few weeks, to cope with this loss; however, a short time into the trip, he stumbled upon a young Asian woman who was unconscious.  While he was off retrieving her lost rucksack, she was murdered.  A few weeks later, while on a business trip to Germany, he decided to make a detour to the address in Germany which he had seen on her passport, met her sister, and was arrested, questioned and released.  All of these events left him wondering what the big deal was about this woman, which had caused her to be murdered.

Some time thereafter, he was invited to Brunei by a business acquaintance to assist in researching a problem; while on the plane, he met a woman who worked for the British Embassy.  Yes, this is all very confusing, but it all tied together, although somewhat tenuously.  The dead wife seemed to have a central role in the story, mostly because Richard kept speaking to her memory for guidance.  The ending was not terribly satisfactory, as it didn't answer the questions about the dead woman very well, but at least it was all tied up.

Oh, and Pooh Bridge refers to a bridge to which Richard and his wife would take the twins to play "Pooh Sticks," which is the game Winnie the Pooh and friends played in their book, where they would drop sticks off the upstream side of the bridge, and then trot to the other side to see whose came through first.  I'm not really sure why that was relevant to the story, other than that it was another memory of Richard's late wife.  2.5/5
Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Do you suppose Ryan was trying to send me a message with this Christmas present?

I need to contemplate these for a while.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Garden Tuesday: Frigid

This was taken Saturday afternoon, before our current frigid weather moved in.  We topped out at 14 degrees today, with about 3" of snow which came in spits and fits interspersed with sun.  So I know you'll all forgive me for not going outside to take pictures of a 13 degree snowstorm!

Stay warm this frigid Garden Tuesday!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fish With Capers

I was running really late the other night, in no small part because my dearly beloved had decided to reorganize a file containing 17 years worth of records, and I had to assist.  So I did something I've probably never done before, and cooked an entire meal on the top of one stove.  It's a little crowded, isn't it?

And, yes, it was 10PM.

Anyway, because it would be fast and easy, I decided to cook fish, borrowing an idea from Larry, AKA Big Dude.  Here it is.


White fish filets
1 tbsp margarine or butter per pound of fish
1 tsp lemon juice per pound of fish
1 tsp capers per pound of fish
No Salt!

Melt the butter in a pan.  Saute up the capers for a minute, then stir in the lemon juice and add the fish.  Note: Mine were really thick, so I cut them into chunks to make the cooking go faster.  Cook the fish until it's done, turning partway through the cooking.  Don't add extra salt!  The capers are quite salty, and that's all you need.  Serve over a bed of rice or pasta.

See?  Fast and delicious.

Happy Monday, everyone.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

December Sewing

Yes, I know I'm a little slow.  But my December was unusually productive, despite having to prepare for Christmas, maybe because Thanksgiving was so early.  And I've been a terrible poster since November or so.  So, pretend I've been keeping you all up to date on my projects, shall we?

First up: This is a sparkly, fuzzy brown sweater knit.  I don't wear a lot of browns, so I wasn't sure if I'd like it.  The sparkly threads also made it a little itchy.  So I opted for a sleeveless a-line dress with a lined jacket to keep the itch to a minimum. 

 I used a gold lining inside the jacket.  The sparkles are gold, not silver, so it goes together pretty well.  It's not my favorite outfit, but it works.

Next up: a blue and purple burnout velour.  I don't know why I chose to make a dress and jacket, but I did.  The fabric isn't all that heavy, so it's nice when the weather is in the 30s.  And it's really soft, which is always nice.
 A view of the inside of the jacket.  Nothing special.

 Next up: Winter white velour, something a friend was recently discussing on her blog.  I had over 3 yards of this, and laid it out like it was the most important thing ever.   First up was this strappy princess seamed dress.
 I didn't finish the jacket the same day, but wanted to wear it.  So I wore it with this lovely Pashmina shawl which Jeffrey gave me for Christmas.
 I made an a-line strappy dress, too, shown here with the jacket.

I also made a cami, but never got a picture of that.

Last up: the Christmas dress made from Panne Velvet, which you saw on me.  This gives a little better idea of the color, which is white, but with the faintest hint of pink!

I've even managed to sew a little in January; maybe I'll get that written up one of these days, too.

Hope you're all having a great weekend.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chicken Paprika

Well, I took some great pictures of this dinner, but my camera has been eating SD cards.  It has corrupted 2 of them in the past 2 weeks, so these pictures are gone.  I can tell you that the idea came from this cookbook, found at a library used book sale (of course).

This struck me as being a lot like beef stroganoff, which is always a big hit hereabouts, so I gave it a whirl, and received encouragement to cook this again....soon....

Without further ado, here it is, of course with the expected Marjie changes:


3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup water whisked with 2 tbsp cornstarch
1 pound sour cream
fresh or canned mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 350F (I used my convection setting).  Spray a large baking pan with cooking spray, spread one chopped onion over the bottom of the pan, arrange the chicken in a single layer, sprinkle with a bit of salt and copious amounts of paprika, and spread the other chopped onion atop them.  Bake until the chicken is nearly done, turning midway to insure even cooking.  Pour the drippings from the baking dish into a saucepan, spread the mushrooms on top of the chicken, and return the chicken to the oven.  Toss a handful or 2 of ice into the drippings to coagulate the fat, and scoop it out, then add the chicken broth and heat to a boil.  Whisk in the water/cornstarch mix, cook until it thickens, then turn down the heat and add the sour cream.  Stir until just combined, add more paprika if desired, pour over the chicken, and return to the oven for 5 minutes for the flavors to really blend together.  Serve over a bed of rice.

I served mine with sides of broccoli and asparagus, and I'm just plain peeved that my stooopid camera ate the pictures.  Oh, well...

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thorsday Book Review

This was another "hide out and read" book during the week after Christmas.

by Mary Stewart
c. 1975

Bryony Ashley, from a prominent English family, is working in a lovely Mediterranean town, when she gets a "feeling" in the middle of the night that something is wrong with her father, and subsequently is notified that he is dead.  As his only child, Bryony has to return to England to deal with funeral arrangements and sort out the estate; following the will of the original Ashley some centuries earlier, the estate, now down on its heels, goes to her cousin as the eldest male heir.  The estate house is leased to a wealthy American for the summer, but Bryony's father owned a separate, contiguous parcel with a cottage in which they lived.  Because of the "feelings" that some of the Ashleys share (think: ESP), Bryony is convinced that her father was murdered.  This book follows the Mary Stewart tradition of a strong woman who has a mystery or problem to solve, with one or more handsome men at the outskirts of the story.  "Touch not the cat" were among Bryony's father's last words; what does that mean?  They have no cat!  A fast paced, satisfying story with just enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.  Not deep or classic literature, but fun! 3.5/5

My copy of this book is an original version found at a library book sale, but it's now available as a "rediscovered" classic at Amazon.  I'm happy to see someone finding good books from a simpler time and reprinting them for those of us who don't need or want all kinds of sci-fi and futuristic things in our books, because we just want a good story to follow.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Weather

Snow.  About 4".  Temperature of 32 degrees.  Perfect for the little boys and several friends to build snow forts and hold snowball wars.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Garden Tuesday: No Snow

With yesterday's dinner, I posted pictures of the melting snow last week.  After a weekend of high 40s temperatures, and fog Sunday, there's virtually nothing left.  This is the same view as last week.

And this plowed up pile of snow and leaves is truly representative of all that's left.

Ryan's distraught.  He'll be thrilled when he learns that 3" is forecast for tomorrow, but only because he has yet to fully learn that weather forecasts are merely suggestions.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chicken Pasta Sorta Primavera

I have not fallen off the face of the earth!  Things are a little loony around here.  Bugs Bunny would doubtless be right at home in my loony-toon world about now.

Anyway, I wanted a fast and easy dinner on Saturday night.  Unlike most people, I cook my complicated dinners during the week, and Friday and Saturday are supposed to be fast and easy.  My feeling is that since I'm working anyway during the week, what's a few hours longer?  Right, back to reality.  Fast and easy Saturday night dinner: Check.  Pictures?  Oops.


3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (I used thighs), cut in strips
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound spaghetti
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
about 3/4 pound each frozen broccoli, cauliflower, corn
4 cups milk
3 tbsp cornstarch
Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Spray a pan with cooking spray, and brown up the chicken slices with salt to taste.  (Get the pasta water boiling!)  Add the onion, cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times.  Add the carrots, corn, broccoli and cauliflower, cover and cook for 6 or 7 minutes.  (Start the spaghetti cooking.)  Microwave 3 cups of the milk, and add to the chicken and veggie mix; bring to a simmer.  Whisk the cornstarch into the balance of the milk, stir into the simmering chicken mixture, put in plenty of pepper, stir and cook until the sauce returns to a simmer.  (When you drain your pasta, reserve a cup of the cooking liquid in case your sauce needs to be thinned a bit.)  Serve with the Parmesan cheese over a bed of hot pasta.  Forget to take any pictures.  Post pictures of the snow last Tuesday (for the Garden Tuesday post that got lost in my muddled brain) and hope everyone likes them.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Thorsday Book Review...On Friday

Over Christmas vacation, I did find time to hide with a book or 2.  Sometimes you just need to hide and decompress, right?  I found two books by the same author, and read them both in very short order.

A Maggie Sullivan Mystery
by M. Ruth Myers

I read this on my Kindle.  Maggie Sullivan is the daughter of a cop in Dayton, Ohio during the Depression.  Following her father's death, she had to sell the family home and move into a boarding house.  She also opened her own detective agency.  One day, a wealthy businessman who was swindled by an associate hired her to find the man - and his money.  As soon as she began asking questions, the missing man turned up dead in the river.  This left Maggie trying to figure out where he had been, and why he was murdered.  This was a very well written and entertaining book; the progression of the story was logical, and made me want to continue reading.  I also enjoyed the glimpses into everyday life during the Depression - apple vendors on the streets, for example.  This book rates a very enthusiastic 4/5.

A Maggie Sullivan Mystery
by M. Ruth Myers

Another Kindle offering, and the second in the series (and it's free right now, if you have a Kindle).  One day, a "Tough Guy" marches into Maggie Sullivan's office after she's been hired to check into the actions of a man's nephew, and tells her to back off.  Of course, he's found dead shortly thereafter, she becomes a murder suspect, and she needs to figure out the whole story to save herself, solve the murder, and, along the way, do the job for which she was hired.  This was another very good offering by Ruth Myers.  I'm hoping she will continue to write Maggie Sullivan mysteries!  Another very enthusiastic 4/5.

have a great weekend, and if your yard looks like mine, I hope you're enjoying it!