Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Garden Tuesday: Rainy Rhododendron

A weekend of sunshine and warmer temperatures followed by a couple of days of drizzle have made the rhododendron right outside my kitchen window start to bloom:

 It's a really tall rhododendron.  Here's what I see looking out my window on this gloomy day:

Hope you all have green and flowers surrounding you!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Oat Wheaten Rolls

One night last weekend, Ryan wanted soup and tuna sandwiches for dinner, and he enlisted his brothers in the campaign.  Of course, I complied; why would I not?  I needed good sandwich rolls for this dinner, and came up with these.


1-1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp yeast
3 cups white flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1 tbsp powdered milk
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the water in your bread machine bucket or mixing bowl; sprinkle the yeast over it and add the remaining ingredients in order.  Follow my bread making directions to make the dough.  Let it rise for 15 minutes after kneading, punch down, split into 16 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball and place on a greased baking sheet.  Allow them to rise until doubled in size, about 15 to 20 minutes, while the oven preheats to 375F (350F for a convection oven).  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, depending upon how dark you want your rolls.  Let them stand for a couple of minutes before you try to cut them!

These were really good.  The picture is the rolls that were left after dinner, so you know the boys liked them.  And those were gone the next day.  Best of all, no one guessed they're actually good for them!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Florabama

I got this book at the Library Used Book Sale last fall, and just hadn't gotten to it, although I don't know why.  This is a case of judging a book by its cover; I pulled it off the shelf because the title was intriguing, and took it without reading the dust jacket because I liked the picture on the cover.  Seriously, who wouldn't want a porch like that with the cute little doggy sitting there?  Not that I recall this porch being in the story, but still.

by Lois Battle
Copyright 2001

Bonnie Duke Cullman's husband just lost $300,000 in bad investments, driving them into bankruptcy, and then left her for a younger woman.  She's on her way to Florabama, Alabama from Atlanta, where she will be starting a job at a small local college, helping the newly unemployed start college courses.

The Cherished Lady, a lingerie plant in Florabama, has just closed, leaving young, middle aged and old women, married, divorced and widowed, all looking for something to do.  The very unpleasant office assistant in Bonnie's new office, Mrs. Snopes, AKA Snoopy, decided to set up meetings for her starting the minute she walks into her office for the first day of work.  There's no great drama in this book; it's the story of many different women trying to start their lives over, and how they accomplish that.  It's the story of Bonnie coming up with an idea to help tide these women over while they restart (or, in some cases, start) their educations.  It's how some cope, and others flee.  It really is the story of life.

This book tied in neatly with my son's talk at the NYSE last week, on the effects of the closing of a major employer in a small economic market.  But there's more to it than just the evil company taking advantage of their workers.  As someone said in the book, if the ladies in Florabama cost $8 per hour to make the fancy unmentionables, and workers in Mexico will do it for $2 per hour, how can the garments made in Florabama compete in the stores?

As usual, I find more meaning in books than is necessarily written into them.  It's the curse of being me.  But I really did enjoy this book.  I loved some characters, despised others, and didn't much care one way or the other for some.  But that's real life, and that's what it takes to write a really good book.  5/5

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Garden Tuesday: Green and Yellow

Rain Thursday and Friday followed by sunshine (and chilly temperatures) over the weekend have finally yielded some color here in my little corner of the world!

These are the only daffodils we have:
 The south side of Old Madison is looking pretty good:
 We had a couple of trees taken out of this grove last fall; hopefully some grass will grow beneath them this year:
 Forsythia!  The one in the shade on the other side of the house has yet to bloom.

Hope your yards are all as verdant!  Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Salmon Archiduc

Last week, when my nurse daughter was home (because who else could she go visit for her 3 day weekend from Monday through Wednesday?), she went out and picked up a package of salmon for dinner.  I hauled out a New York Times Cookbook authored by Craig Claiborn, and this recipe was there, waiting for me to cook it.  Naturally, it's modified to suit what I had in the house, but isn't that the way it goes everywhere?  Oh, Please, Don't tell me I'm the only person who can't ever cook a recipe the way it's written!


2 pounds salmon
4 tbsp butter
1 onion, minced
1-1/2 cups warm milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup cold water
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a large skillet, cook the onion until soft, then add the salmon, season with the salt, and cook, flipping once, until it flakes apart.  Remove the salmon to a plate, and put the skillet's cover over it to keep it warm.  Add the milk to the skillet with the pepper and sherry, and heat to a simmer.  Whisk the water and cornstarch together, then whisk into the milk mixture.  Heat until the sauce thickens, add the cream, and turn down the heat so it doesn't boil.  Stir in the parsley, then put the salmon back in the pan for a minute to get it hot again.  Serve with rice.

Everyone liked this.  Well, OK, maybe my littlest fussbudget just tolerated it.  But even my dearly beloved said I should make this again soon, and he's not the world's greatest fan of salmon. I call that a win!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Something Different

My oldest son gave a talk at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.  And I am jealous because he got to see the penguins there fore the open of the trading day, in celebration of Sea World becoming a publicly traded company.  These aren't his pictures, but I thought they were just stinkin' adorable.

Hope you're all having a nice Saturday!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thorsday Book Review: James Bond

Just before Easter, the newest James Bond movie came out on DVD; of course, the boys had to rent it for everyone to watch and enjoy.  Personally, I thought it was the worst James Bond movie, because there seemed to me to be no coherent story line until about halfway through the movie.  We can live with the improbable gadgets and action in the Bond films, because the good guy always prevails, and that makes us feel good, but without a story, the unbelievable action is pretty well intolerable.  Just my opinion.

So, anyway, while wandering through the house, Jeff discovered that we had a few James Bond books, and opined that he might read some of them the next time he was home.  I noted a few days later that we had a duplicates of one of them, so pulled it off the shelf to ship to Jeff, along with another I found at last week's book sale, and read one before it got into its box.

by Ian Fleming
copyright 1964

James Bond was depressed.  A bad guy had murdered his wife when he'd only been married one day (and who knew the eternal playboy was ever married?), so he'd been slacking off, drinking and not working.  M summoned James to his office and sent him to Japan on assignment to get the intelligence the Japanese were sending to the CIA and not to Britain.  Of course, this means time spent with a dude named Tiger, in a geisha house, learning Japanese ways, because James is to destroy a place known as the Castle of Death.  Once he learned that the proprietor of the Castle of Death was the same guy who'd killed his wife, Bond was really on to the program.  Pearl diving, a cute girl named Kissy Suzuki and a disguise as a tall Japanese man all were involved, as one might expect.

As I expected, having read Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a child, Ian Fleming's descriptions of settings and events can become rather wordy, but the book is pretty much what one might expect.  Amusing distraction, nothing more, but well written.  3/5.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Garden Tuesday? Paving

So, this morning some guy pounds on our front door and informs us that he's been paving our neighbor's driveway, and he has too much asphalt, so would we like some areas in our driveway patched?

Hmmm.  This is the snowy, cold northeast.  Does pavement crack?  Does a bear do his business in the woods?  So we said, sure, go ahead and patch, expecting him to fill in maybe 10'x10' or 10'x20' at most.

Then all of this shows up.

And notice this guy with the Romper Stompers on his feet.  Turns out there are blacktop tamping shoes.  Who knew?

Now, don't get me wrong, we needed a good liberal repaving.  But this bill is going to be a real shock, far from the $200 to $400 we thought we were spending.  Oh, well.  At least it's done.

And you can see a little of the yard in the background, and might even notice that the rain this weekend has finally turned our lawn green.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Cheap Sponge Cake"

Back to Mary at the farm for a variation of one of my husband's favorite desserts ever.  I can't say this is any cheaper than any other version of sponge cake I've tried, but it was good, and that's what counts.  I might very well make this again, like tonight.


4 egg whites
4 egg yolks
1-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/4 cup boiling water

Beat the egg whites until stiff, and set aside.  Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir together the flour, powder and salt.  Add the egg whites to the yolks, then the flour combination and any flavorings (I used 1 tbsp orange juice powder from Spice Barn, 1 tsp grated orange peel and 1/4 tsp orange extract), then gently beat in the boiling water.  Turn into a greased bundt pan, and bake at 350F for about 35 minutes.

Everyone liked this cake.  This picture is what was left the next day around noon.  Testimony enough, right?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Post 1400: Book Sale!

Kellie's been home for vacation this week, and we all went to a book sale this morning!

Here's what happens when Mom borrows Ryan's camera, and doesn't know how to operate the stupid point and click.  (I had to take a tiny camera, because hauling a giant DSLR to a book sale is just stooopid.  The kids told me so.)

Nice foot.

Kellie had to squish Mark, because he's now about 5'10, and officially taller than she is.

That's Ryan's first car.  It has 190K miles on it, but the engine has been rebuilt, and we only have $3500 into it.  And let's face it, you don't cram someone who's 6'5" tall into a Mini Cooper.

And I wasn't going to buy myself any books, because, of course, I never buy myself books.  I have too many books.  I'll tell myself that next weekend, at the other book sale, as well.  Meanwhile, I'm off to do some high quality reading!

Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Perfection Waffles

This is another experiment from Mary at the Farm (see Monday).  Seriously, it's a public domain book, and free for the Kindle, so why not try some of the recipes?  While everyone loves fancy food, sometimes it's the down home comfort food that speaks most directly to us.

(Taken exactly from the book, and not altered at all)

3-1/2 cups sour milk (1/4 cup sour cream and 3-1/4 cups milk stirred together and let to sit for 5 minutes
1/2 cup sour cream
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 tbsp melted butter

OK, so the original recipe calls for beating the egg whites, combining all of the other ingredients together, stirring in the egg whites, and then cooking.  But I'm a rebel.  I just beat everything together, and it works fine.  I promise.

I made this batter a couple of days ago, and didn't tell anyone that their waffles were not the usual ones.  Only Ryan commented on the change, and he did not like these as well.  He opined that maybe they had less eggs (right on, chief; you're a real connoiseur, my boy).  I did notice that the batter didn't sell quite as quickly as my normal waffle batter.  I also noticed that it was quite thin, as you can see from the picture above, and so made a thinner waffle, even in the big Belgian Waffle Maker I use.

So, this one's not a keeper recipe.  But at least I tried, right?

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thorsday Book Review: Out of Time

For all of you who wondered, Dan's cranberry bread turned out fine.  He didn't make a mess with the wooden spoon attachment for his driver drill.  And he swears that DeWalt makes excellent power tools as well as excellent kitchen tools.  (He even washed his bowl and spoon, after unchucking the spoon, of course).

On to today's book, from my trusty Kindle:

By Deborah Truscott

On Valentine's Day, Kathy Lee Findlay is burying her beloved 17 year old cat, Earl, at her mother's house; her two small children are with her.  Earl is more loved than Kathy Lee's husband, a doctor, who has been sleeping his way through his hospital in Fairfax, Virginia.  The same day, Kathy Lee gets a phone call telling her that her father's brother has died, and she's inherited his Revolutionary War era house located on the Skippack Pike in Montgomery, PA.  After a few trips to the house over the course of perhaps 3 months, Kathy Lee has decided that she's going to sell the house; while looking in the garden shed for something one day, she found a man dressed in strange riding boots and oddly styled breeches.

I knew at that point that this book would be fun.  Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Christian Upton had ridden out of Germantown following the Battle of Germantown in October, 1777, dismounted, sat upon a wall, and ended up in Kathy Lee's tool shed.  He was perplexed by her strange gown and why it was so beastly hot for October.  She invited Colonel Upton inside for tea, and the story really began.  Once Kathy Lee began to believe that Colonel Upton had fallen into some sort of time warp, and once he fathomed the same, a plan needed to be formulated to get him back to 1777.

Instruction on modern technology, from the nifty opening wheel for canned soup and the magic of the toilet to the automobile (which Col. Upton surmised must come from "auto" for "self" and "mobile" for "propelled"), a crash course in 200 years of history, a road trip to the Outer Banks, and this was a great book.  Of course, my brain thinks deeper even when enjoying a book, and I was struck by the wonder, to Col. Upton, of even the simplest things.  One comment he made, for example, was that our populace looked well fed, healthy and clean.  It made me thankful for those things we take for granted.  So if you're looking for a fast paced, entertaining read, look for this.  5/5

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: When Men Cook

Dan wanted cranberry bread, so he went to the store to buy some mixes.

He doesn't need any stinkin' Kitchenaid mixer!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Garden Tuesday: A Look Way Back

We have no flowers.  We have no green.  It's depressing.

So I thought I would post a picture of my dearly beloved's grandmother in her garden about 80 years ago.

She had flowers.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review and Aunt Sarah's Bread

For the record, I don't have an Aunt Sarah.  Never did.  To the best of my knowledge, the name hasn't even existed in my family in at least a century.

No, the name comes from a free book I got midweek last week, on a lark, from Kindle.  So, first a review, and then the bread.

By Edith Thomas

Mary, a 19 year old orphan from Philadelphia, wrote to her Aunt Sarah and Uncle John, requesting that she be allowed to come spend time with them at their Bucks County Farm and learn how to run a household.  Aunt Sarah, correctly guessing that Mary is planning to wed, invites her to come immediately, and so begins the story.  Among other things, Mary wants to learn to cook well, admiring Aunt Sarah's book of recipes, handwritten and interspersed with poems.  The book is a gentle story, set about 100 years ago, without any drama, involving Mary learning how to do things around the house, including quilting, making rag rugs, and making a house comfortable and bright.  There is a minor amount of interesting conversation about women's suffrage, and the advantages thereto, but it is minor.  The story of Mary's time on the farm is only about 1/3 of the book; the balance is the recipes she acquired.  This makes me believe that this book is at least somewhat biographical, maybe even autobiographical.

I scanned the recipes, and many are adaptable to today's cooking.  Of course, I got a wild notion to try one of the bread recipes on Friday, since I was making Sloppy Joes.  So, here are both the original and adapted recipes:


1 quart potato water
1 mashed potato
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup yeast
1/2 tbsp salt
3 quarts flour, to stiffen

OK, that's a lot of ingredients.  Here's my scaled down version, which made 16 rolls:

1-1/2 cups water from boiling one small potato
1/4 to 1/2 cup mashed potato (the small one)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp yeast
1 tsp salt
3-1/2 to 4 cups flour

While the water is still warm, pour it into your mixing bowl or bread machine bucket; sprinkle the yeast over it.  Add the flour, potato, sugar, salt, and butter, cut into small pieces.  Stir and knead until smooth; let rise for 15 minutes, punch down and form into 16 rolls (or 2 loaves bread).  Let rise until doubled in size, then bake at 375F (or 350F in the convection oven) for 13 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

These rolls were pretty good.  How good?  Well, there were only 5 of us home.  And this is how many rolls were left after dinner:

That's right. One.  I think these will be requested again.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thorsday Book Review: A Shot in the Bark

OK, I chose to read this book because of the cover.  I'm allowed, right?

By C. A. Newsome
copyright 2012

I got this book nearly a year ago, and just found it on my Kindle.  Such is the peril of loading up on good books: you miss some of them.  OK, you probably miss a lot of them.

Lia Anderson is an artist who takes her two little dogs to the Mount Airy Dog Park every morning to play; she's made plenty of friends there, along with acquiring the boyfriend she's dumping at the beginning of the book.  Of course, he's upset, and takes up calling her relentlessly until she unplugs her phone around 1AM.  The next morning, Lia arrives at the dog park around 5AM, so she won't have to see anyone, and finds said boyfriend dead in his own car, an apparent suicide.  We, the readers, know he was murdered, because every few chapters, the murderer pops up and tells us in a chapter written in italics, what she has done.  And the handsome detective, Peter Dourson, confirms this for us.

I knew right away who the murderer was!  It was Anna, the shrink with the Tibetan Mastiff!  No, wait, it was Catherine, the rich b***h with 2 pomeranians!  No, wait, it was Bailey, Lia's landscaping business partner!  No, wait!  It was Anna, Again!

This was a fun, easy read.  I'll be looking for other books by this author.  5/5

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Easter Eggs my daughter has made me over the years.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Garden Tuesday: Planting

Some of the kids were here for Easter.  Shannon, our resident landscaper, took it upon herself to trim up some of the shrubs.  Then she decided that an outside wall now has full sun, and needed some plantings.  Off to a tiny nursery she went, and picked up 8 lecotho.  She then wrangled her brothers into assisting with the planting (translation: "You guys dig holes where I want them!"  Smart girl).

Notice that we have two supervisors after the holes were dug.

Aren't they pretty?  I just hope they survive the cold snap we're having since Sunday.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!