Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thorsday Book Review: Leaving Van Gogh

I first heard of Vincent Van Gogh when I heard Don McLean's song in the early 1970s.  I loved the song, but am not such a fan of most of his paintings; I find them disturbing.  Of course, this book makes the reason behind that much clearer...

by Carol Wallace
copyright 2011

Dr. Paul Gachet was a specialist in mental illness in France in the late 1800s.  In the early summer of 1890, Theo Van Gogh approached him in Paris, requesting that Dr. Gachet, who had treated and was friendly with many artists of the day, care for his brother, Vincent Van Gogh, in his town of Auvers-sur-Oise.  Vincent did indeed come to town, renting a room and a shed from which he could work, and painted very vigorously through the beginning of the summer.  Dr. Gachet and his family became friendly with Vincent; Vincent painted the doctor's portrait, along with a portrait of his daughter.

We all know what happened to Vincent.  This story tells in much greater detail the story of Vincent's life, from a different perspective, that of his doctor.  Vincent was trilingual; he was brilliant; he was more than 2 or 3 degrees off plumb, which may go with genius.  The author used information gathered during her graduate school research, including about 900 letters written by Vincent, to write this book.  It feels as if the narrator was there; it feels as if he is still haunted by Vincent's death; it's a very good read.  5/5

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Sunshine

I liked the way the sunshine was dappled on the stones this morning.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hot Cross Buns

I know it's Garden Tuesday, but my yard is just brown and white.  That's no change from last week, or last month, and there are more important issues to consider today.  For example:

It's time once again to think about Easter baking.  One of the things we expect around here (and by "we", I mean everyone else) is Hot Cross Buns.  Many.  Three or four batches.

So you can get all of the ingredients, and be well prepared to make this Easter delight, here is my favorite recipe:


1 cup warm milk (around 100F)
2-1/2 tsp yeast

4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup melted butter
5 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs
1 cup raisins

Put the milk in the bread machine mixing container, or in a mixing bowl, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Add the other ingredients in the order given, reserving the raisins until after all of the ingredients are well combined, and the dough is forming a nice, stiff ball. Turn the bread machine on to mix only for 15 minutes, or mix in the Kitchenaid stand mixer (stirring the ingredients together by hand will be hard, since this is stiff dough). 5 minutes before the mixing is done, pour in the raisins. Let the dough stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then divide into 16 pieces. Form each one into a ball, and let rise until nearly doubled in size. Brush with 1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tbsp water, and let the dough rise a few minutes longer. Bake at 400F for 22 to 25 minutes, until the desired degree of brown is reached. For the frosting crosses, stir together 2 cups confectioners sugar with 1 tsp vanilla extract and enough cream to make it drizzling consistency. Drizzle the frosting in a cross pattern over each Hot Cross Bun.

If I do my job correctly, each of my adult kids will be able to take a few of these back to his or her residence.  Some of them might even survive the drive!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Easter Cake

My nurse daughter has to work Easter weekend, so she came home this past weekend with her sister, to have an early Easter celebration.  Well, why not?  Holidays are fun, and I'm sure more holidays are more fun!

Of course, one of the things that we absolutely must have for Easter is the traditional 2-color cake.  I only had strawberry and orange flavored gelatine mix, but I prefer to use brighter color contrast.  No matter; everyone loved it.  So, here is a new, healthier recipe for this traditional favorite (no one noticed the change in ingredients, although everyone loved it):


3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup margarine
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup milk
2 4-ounce boxes flavored gelatine dessert mix (sugar free or regular)
2 tbsp water

Beat the egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar and cream of tartar until stiff, and set aside.  Cream the margarine and 3/4 cup sugar, and add the salt and vanilla.  Beat in the flour, powder and milk until stiff.  Stir in the egg whites, and divide in half.  Into each half of the batter, beat one box of gelatine (Jell-o or store brand) and 1 tbsp water, until the color is even, and pour each into a greased 8" layer pan.  Bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake layers test done.  Let the layers cool, and frost with whipped cream.  Keep refrigerated.

Later this week, a couple more traditional Easter recipes are planned.  Let's see if the world will allow me to carry out my plans!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thorsday Book Review

by Ann Elwood
copyright 2012

Pandora "Dory" Ryan is a grad student, working on research for her PhD.  She's not a typical student: she's a 40-ish, slightly overweight, divorced, former rock band staffer.  So, she really doesn't feel that she fits in with the other researchers at the provincial archives in Avignon, but she has become very friendly with a nun who's there.  Dory's research involves the lives of nuns about 100 years ago, and one day, a document mysteriously appears in the record book she's using, which appears to be the diary of a novice at the convent.  The diary mysteriously appears and disappears over the course of several days, and Dory can only get some of the pages copied before it's just gone.

Then, one day, the nun who's working in the archive is murdered in the bathroom.  About the same time, a Frenchman who claims to be a policeman has appeared at the archive, but he's not who he claims to be.  And another woman doing research in the archive is searching for clues to a reliquary that she says belonged to her family is distraught because she felt the nun held a key to that item.

It's all very intertwined, and all made harder to pierce because of the difficult attitude of the archivist.  But the descriptions of Dory's apartment, neighborhood and favored cafe, as well as her visits to the convent and to rural areas away from the city are wonderful.  At least a dozen times I knew who killed the nun, and at least a dozen times I changed my mind.  This was a very good book, available for Kindle and in paperback.  4/5

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Inscription in pencil on the black flyleaf:  "Christmas 1874 to B. T. Hull from his Mother."

Hope you're all having a good week!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Garden Tuesday: More of The Same

Friday, it was sunny and 60.  Saturday it snowed all day, but we only got about an inch.  Sunday it was sunny and 40.  It was sunny Monday morning.  Ryan appeared at home 2 hours early Monday afternoon, announcing, "They didn't want to risk holding a sleepover for us runts!"

Then the snow started around 5.

My pictures are not blurry.  I promise.  Those are the snowflakes obscuring my yard.  Click to biggify the pictures if you want a closer look.

Then came ice overnight.  But I didn't take a picture of that.

And it's supposed to be sunny and 50 by Thursday.  It's a good thing I have a widely varied wardrobe, because we seem to have a new season every day!

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Chicken With Onion

This was an easy dinner for a cold night last week.  Of course, roast chicken is always a big hit.  I just simplified this one an itty bitty bit.


1 Oven Stuffer Roaster
2 onions
1/4 cup margarine, softened

Remove the innards from the chicken, rinse the cavity, salt it liberally, quarter one onion and put it inside.

Peel the second onion and quarter it.  Mince it into itty bitty pieces, or do what I did and put it in the food processor with the chopping blade, and run it until it turns into a watery mess.  Add the margarine, and process until well combined (note that you can use butter, but it greatly increases your cholesterol, and we're all watching out for those evil cholesterols added to our food, right?).  Gently loosen the skin across the top and sides of the chicken, and into the drumsticks to whatever degree possible, then spread the onion paste under the skin as evenly as possible.  Roast at 350F for the usual time (I always go with big chickens, so mine take longer than yours will); note that if you have a convection oven, roasting time can be cut by 25 percent!

Drain the pan drippings into a sauce pan, and let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before cutting.  Meanwhile, add copious amounts of ice to the drippings.  In addition to the normal chicken fat, there will be the melted margarine or butter fat to be removed, so be aware of that.  When all of the fat has congealed, scoop it out with the ice.  Heat the pan drippings, whisk 1/2 cup cold water with 2 to 3 tbsp cornstarch, whisk this mixture into the drippings, and stir until thickened for perfect gravy.

Everyone liked this chicken, and it was about the easiest seasoning combination I can think of, and my dearly beloved went and found the leftovers for midnight snacking.  Enough said!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

In Celebration of Pi Day...

...which was Thursday (3.14 to geeks everywhere), I made two pies:

Dutch Apple pie with crumb topping (I always add nuts to mine)

And Lemon Chess Pie.

My wonderful daughter gave me two 9" pie plates for Christmas, because I didn't have any, so I used one of them.  I guess most people take pie plates for granted, but not me!  I haven't been making pies for very long, so they are a miracle to me!

Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thorsday Book Review

I first found this author through Kindle, and his books have become favorites.  Paul Levine can weave a fine story, with believable and likable characters.  Here's the most recent of his books which I've read.

by Paul Levine

Jake Lassiter is a lawyer in southern Florida.  (As a side note, Paul Levine must have some connection to southern Florida, since everything I've read by him has been set there, and he makes you really feel the atmosphere there.)  When the story opens, Jake is defending Dr. Roger Salisbury, an orthopedic surgeon, in a civil action, wherein the widow (the much younger second wife) asserts that Dr. Salisbury killed her husband during the course of back surgery.  Jake wins the case, and the dead guy's daughter shows up, infuriated, claiming that she has evidence that Dr. Salisbury did kill her father.

In the process of trying to prove or disprove the daughter's assertions, Jake and his friend, the retired Medical Examiner, Dr. Charlie Riggs, exhume (without permission) both the decedent and his first wife, and haul them to Granny Lassiter's house in the Florida Keys for an unauthorized autopsy.  Oh, and the widow sends her 'Roid Raged bodyguard to try to throw Jake to the gators in the Everglades.  The whole book is rather lighthearted and fun, while retaining an air of plausability.  This is the second Jake Lassiter book I've read, and I'll be on the lookout for more of Paul Levine's books at the next Library Book Sale.  5/5.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Some books are meant for decoration, and not for reading.  Case in point:

Click pictures to enlarge and read the print.

(Although maybe Diane wants them to help her brush up on her French!)

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Garden Tuesday: Rain

Last week, it looked like winter, having taken its sweet time to arrive, was going to linger for a while.

This week, things are different.

Very different.

That doesn't mean it can't snow again; it does mean that we can believe that spring will, indeed, arrive!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

February Sewing: Pink Velour

 I did all of this sewing in February, but never got around to posting about it.  Such is my life of late.

This was a lightweight pink velour, so I decided its best use would be sleeveless dresses with a matching jacket.  I had 4 yards of it, so there would be plenty of potential uses.

First up: My favorite summer princess seamed dress, with a bolero jacket from a pattern I got in 1981.  I love this jacket; it's nicely fitted and feminine, without being too formal or fussy.  I copied the dress from one I bought in the late 1980s, and wore until it fell apart.

Second: an a-lined, spaghetti strapped dress, also a summer favorite.  I didn't get any decent pictures while standing; I guess taking pictures at 1AM when I'm tired isn't such a great idea, right?

Third: Another incarnation of the Vogue 1250, which was all the rage a couple of years ago.  Since this was a lightweight fabric, it draped really well, and my dearly beloved told me this is one of the prettier versions I've made.

This is the V1250 with the jacket.  Just what I need for winter wear.

Note that this pink is actually the color of cotton candy.  My dearly beloved commented to me that while I have lots of pink dresses, I didn't have any quite like this, a bright yet pale shade.  He liked it.  Note to self: he likes pink.  Wear pink.

I have another velour dress cut out, but the weather has turned warm, and I'm not motivated to finish it. *sigh*

Hope you've all had a great weekend!  Ours has been sunny and warm, which is always welcome a couple of days after a snowstorm!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Thorsday Book Review - On Friday

Yes, I know it's Friday.  Some Thorsdays go better than others.  But, trust me, this book was worth waiting for.

(image from

by Annie Adams

This was a fun read.  It definitely falls in the category of "cozy" mystery: not too graphic, not too serious.

Quincy McKay is a florist in Utah, having bought the shop from her Aunt. She's also divorced from an abusive husband, which upset her mother to no end.  Quincy's shop has been struggling since Derrick Gibbons managed to take over all of the funeral home floral business around.  And it's no secret that Quincy and Derrick dislike each other.  So, when Derrick turns up dead, embalmed and in a casket at the funeral home, Quincy is considered a suspect by a particularly nasty detective.  Then her sales girl quits, and Quincy's sister steps in to help; her delivery van, Zombie Sue (so called because it can't be killed) is sideswiped by a red pickup truck, and her delivery guy quits.  Enter a good-looking cop from California, who takes Quincy to lunch - her mother calls in fury thereafter, because her "Mormon Mafia" has told her that Quincy had lunch with a Man Who Ordered A Beer For Lunch.

The story is told with great humor; I was sorry when it ended.  I got the feeling that the author was herself from Utah, and possibly Mormon, because it had the feel of someone who knew the area and its people.  I'll be interested to see if Annie Adams writes more books.  5/5

Hope you all have a nice weekend, and I hope those of you in New England can dig out from this latest storm pretty quickly.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Garden Tuesday: This Never Happened

The boys went out to go to the store one night, and promptly came back inside, asking where the inch of new snow had come from.

 It was not forecast.  Weather com said it was partly cloudy outside.  Clearly, we all were hallucinating: who should we believe, those who are paid to know our weather, or own own lying eyes?

It was still there the next morning.

Cursed hallucinations!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cape Cod Oatmeal Cookies

I was looking for a slightly different recipe for oatmeal cookies.  Oh, it's not that my go-to recipe isn't delicious; it is.  I just sometimes get bored, and have to try something different.  This is modified from a recipe I found in my mid=1990s Fanny Farmer Cookbook.


1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup egg beater (or one egg)
1/2 cup melted margarine
1/4 cup milk (skim or regular)
1 tbsp molasses
1-3/4 cup oats - regular or quick
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Put the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and stir together.  Add the egg, margarine, milk and molasses, and beat on low until combined.  Stir in the oats and nuts, then drop by the teaspoon onto greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes (10 minutes at 350F in convection setting).  Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

The molasses gave these a different tang.  I don't know whether this is really a "Cape Cod" recipe, since, as we've previously discussed, I've never been there, but Gemma probably knows.  And were they any good?  Well, I put them in this new cookie jar which my little guy bought for his Dad for Christmas, so Mom would make Dad more cookies.

And this is what was left the next day, around noon.

Enough said.