Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

There isn't a lot of Halloween color in my back yard, but some of the maples have obliged us with a splendid display of red!

Mostly, though, we have green, which is odd, given that usually all of the leaves are gone by November 1.  I'd say they'll miss their self-imposed deadline this year.

And I"m ready for the trick-or-treaters who never show up!  Do you think the boys had ulterior motives when they went candy shopping?

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: A Birthday

Why do my dearly beloved and children all call me short?

Note to self: Do not chat with daughter while she's decorating cake.  Great art, but misspellings happen.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Garden Tuesday: Birthday

I got older, again, last Thursday.  Or maybe not; to quote my second daughter, "A girl only turns 21 so many times, you know."

Some of the kids came home for a dual celebration: Mark's 14th birthday and mine - but mostly Mark's.  Celebrations are for the kids, after all.  But they got me flowers!

Notice this guy here: a squirrel holding up a giant nut.  Dan chose that one; it's just typical of Dan's humor.

So, it's kind of like an indoor garden here in my little corner of the world.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

From the second Used Book Sale (and bake sale)!  I only bought 3 books; the rest belong to the boys.

Overhead, as said by a lady "of a certain age" at the book sale, "I don't look in my mirror any more.  It has wrinkles."

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  And Happy Birthday to my friend GMarie!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Garden Tuesday: Hydrangea

Yes, I know I take a lot of pictures of my hydrangea.  But I'm really pleased at how pink they've become this year.

I attribute it to the Miracle Gro which our tree planter has been spraying around here this fall.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pasta Party #3

This is another side dish I fall back on when I need something fast and easy, and it qualifies for Louise's Pasta Party.  It's not the conventional way to make white clam sauce, but everyone here loves it.


1 pound linguini, spaghetti or angel hair

2 6-ounce cans of whole clams
olive oil

3 minced garlic cloves
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
copious amounts of fresh ground black pepper
2 cups pasta cooking water

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Pour some of the cooking water into a 2 cup measuring cup, and set aside, then drain the pasta and put your pot lid on top of the colander to keep the pasta hot. Return your pot to the stove, and pour enough olive oil into the pot to just cover the bottom. Turn the stove to medium heat and saute the minced garlic and scallions for a minute. Add the parsley, and cook another minute. Add the clams with the juice from the can, quickly heat through, then add the pasta back to the pan and turn off the heat. Stir the pasta to combine it with the sauce, and add enough of the reserved pasta water to give it your desired consistency. Serve at once.

And, since Louis mentioned it response to my first Pasta Party Post, here's the quintessential side for pasta:


1-1/2 Cups warm water
2 tbsp yeast
4 cups flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

Put the ingredients in your mixing bowl or bread machine bucket in the order listed.  Mix, let rise, form and let rise according to my directions over there ------------->  Brush the tops with warm water and bake at 375F for about 18 minutes (more if you like your crust darker), or 16 minutes in a convection oven, and enjoy the crunchy goodness.

I don't even need a recipe for this one, it's so basic and easy.  And you can use the little round slices to make itty bitty grilled sandwiches the next day, or even toast to go with your eggs!

So, if Louise will allow it, this is Pasta Party entry #4.  If not, that's OK; I hope she enjoys it anyway!  She's going to be posting the whole party on Friday, so I'll remind you all to visit her then!

Pasta Party #2

This is one of my favorite side dishes.  It's fast, it's easy, it's good, and everyone wants the leftovers for lunch the next day.  Thor and Baby Brutus loved it, too, lest your own dogs need recommendations.


1 pound angel hair (regular, plus or whole wheat)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved
1 good handful of chopped parsley leaves (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp dried basil (or some fresh basil, if you prefer)
6 turns fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Cook the angel hair according to the box directions - 6 minutes for this variety. Pour 1 cup of the cooking water into a measuring cup and reserve; then drain the pasta and cover the colander with the pot lid. Return the pot to the heat, add the olive oil, heat, and stir in the garlic. Cook for a minute or 2, then add the parsley leaves and cook another minute. Add the tomatoes and heat through, then add the basil and pepper. Turn off the burner, return the angel hair to the pot and stir to combine with the tomato mixture. Stir in the parmesan, and add some of the reserved cooking water if needed to moisten it up.

This is my second entry for Louise's October Pasta Party.  I think I'll get to writing up another, maybe later!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pasta Party Entry #1: Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

This post is for Louise.  As the title implies, I might just do a few more pasta posts this weekend, to join in her virtual Pasta Party.It's all good fun, after all.


1 pound ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small carrot, grated
12-oz can tomato paste
3 cans water
28-oz can diced tomatoes
garlic powder, if desired
shredded mozzarella, if desired
Spaghetti, Angel Hair, or whatever you desire

Start some generously salted water to boiling in one pan, so the pasta can be cooked at the appropriate time.

In a large, pot, break up the ground beef.  Brown over medium-high heat with the onion and garlic.  When it's cooked, drain the meat, then rinse twice in cold water to remove all of the fat.  Return to the heat, stir in the tomato paste and carrot, and cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the cans of water, one at a time, and cook briefly after each addition.  Add the tomatoes and salt to taste, and simmer for 20 minutes or so.  Just before serving, stir in the oregano and basil, and, if needed, some garlic powder.  If you like (and my boys do), one of my daughter's Italian friends says her family puts shredded mozzarella over the pasta before putting the sauce over it, so it melts in and creates a gooey, delicious concoction.

Dave the Italian substitute UPS driver says that you can reserve some of the pasta cooking water, and then pour it back over the pasta to prevent it from sticking before you serve it.  Of course, he also says his father takes 8 hours every Sunday to make "gravy" (because this is not sauce in the world according to Dave), so he probably knows something about pasta.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thorsday is Book Day

First things first.  For my book giveaway last week, Karin said, "I think you should give it to me because the only contest I've ever won is a cake-walk in Seattle when I was five years old. The cake was squished and tasted like lard and sawdust."  How could she not win with a comment like that?

And then there was the book sale last week.  You know, the one where I said I wasn't buying any books.

The boys carried them, and Ryan sorted them.  I only paid.  Does that count for not buying any books?

I bought 3 new cookbooks, one of which I really don't love, and two of which I think I might like.  I also bought a book for a friend, which I sent on Monday, and a stack of books for the relative in Denver, who doesn't drive and loves it when I send her some new books.  There were also plenty for the boys.  So I didn't buy that many, right?

I was intrigued by the cover of one of the books I sent to Denver, so I read it Saturday.

by Susan Wilson

I opened this book and discovered that it was written in present tense.  You know, the way children write: "I am riding in the truck.  I eat a peanut butter sandwich.  It is gooey."  I decided then and there that I would give the book 50 pages (large type, so that's like maybe 30 pages in real life), and quit.

Justine had left home more than 20 years earlier, at 17, and had never returned to visit.  She has lived hand to mouth for all of those years, so she was understandably miffed when her stepmother phoned her to demand that she come back to Boston (from Seattle).  With no car and unable to afford airfare, a ride across country with an independent trucker doing a contract run is arranged; she is to pay Artie $200, and she can take her dog, Mack, with her.  As the book opens, Justine and Artie are in a truck stop restaurant in Ohio, arguing over the fact that she wants to shower before hitting the road again.  He agrees to wait 7 minutes, after which he will leave without her.  And he does just that.  A one legged biker riding a Harley (who turns out to be a long haired lead violinist for a symphony orchestra) offers her a ride to Erie County, PA, from whence Justine catches a bus back to Boston.  But Artie left with Justine's dog, and Justine is frantic over the loss.

The book is the story of Justine trying to find Artie, and retrieve Mack, while dealing with her father, who is dying, her stepmother, who is as selfish and uncaring as ever, and her stepbrother, who has turned into a rather decent fellow.  Interspersed are sections told (also in present tense) from Mack's point of view, and from the viewpoint of a couple who live around Springfield, Mass.  I can't tell you more than that, lest I spoil the story.

I was stunned by this book.  I read it in a few hours.  It was wonderful, despite the present-tense storytelling.  5/5

I probably won't be so lucky with my finds at the next book sale in 3 days.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Dictionary Day

Thanks to Louise for the inspiration.  Here are maybe half of my dictionaries:

Part of a decorative set:

 In my library:

 In my office (because, of course I need at least 2 directly at hand):
 And one of many in the homework room.
No online dictionaries around here!  Happy Wednesday, everyone

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Garden Tuesday: Twilight

No, not the teenage vampire romance story.

These were taken looking out my front door on Saturday at twilight.

And this is the corner where my big hydrangea is.  Looks a little different near dark, doesn't it?

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sorta Pulled Pork

The rolls I mentioned the other day were made to go with this recipe.  I first had pulled pork at Calhoun's in Knoxville (the original location in a barn).  I found a recipe for Carolina Pulled Pork in my It's All American Food cookbook.  It said I needed a barbecue or something to smoke the pork with hickory wood chips and a crock pot, and bone-in pork shoulder.  Well, I have neither grill nor smoker, and crock pots are way too small for the kind of cooking I do.  Plus, my pork was a boneless butt.  So, being me, I didn't follow the recipe too closely; I just did what I could.


1 piece of pork, about 5 or 7 pounds (or whatever you have)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 cup water
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
Barbecue Sauce

In a stock pot, heat the oil, and cook the onion until soft.  Add the pork, brown on all sides, and add the water and all spices except the barbecue sauce.  Heat to a simmer, turn down and cook for 3 or 4 hours, until the meat is really soft.  Pour off the cooking juices into a very large measuring cup, and add ice to chill and take the fat out of the juices.  While that's chilling, shred the pork with a pair of forks, removing the fat as you go.  Return the pork to the pan, scoop the ice remnants and congealed fat from the juices. and use the pan drippings to make your favorite barbecue sauce, or add some to your favorite store-bought (which is what I did).  Heat through and serve on some wonderful rolls.

OK, it's undoubtedly not up to Big Dude Larry's standards, but my guys wolfed it down.  They were happy that there was enough for lunch the next day, too.

And look at the texture of those rolls! See what I meant when I said they were fine grained and beautiful?

Tomorrow is one of my two autumn book sales!  We'll see what treasures I can find!  Oh, wait, I can't buy any more books because I have no more storage space.  Of course. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thorsday Book Review and Giveaway

Who here is surprised to learn that I've bought two copies of the same book during the course of the last 20+ years?  Silly me.  No one who knows me should be surprised.

I found this amongst my treasures from the book sales last fall, and decided to read it yesterday.  Yes, yesterday.  It was just that fast.

by Alistair Maclean

Johnny Harlow is the best Grand Prix racer on the circuit.  In the opening paragraph, he's sitting in his crashed car, watching stunned as another driver is burned in his own car.  Ouch!  Why am I reading a book about car racing?  But I was drawn in, swiftly.  It looks like Johnny has lost it, and is becoming a good-looking has-been, falling into the depths of alcoholism from absolute sobriety.  He's also suddenly losing all of his races, in one case leading the first four laps and then quitting, citing a problem with 4th gear.

But this isn't a book about racing at all.  It's a mystery:  Why is his car suddenly failing?  Why has his team owner's wife been missing for 4 months, and the guy isn't finding her?  What's with the sudden turnover of mechanics?  Typical of Alistair Maclean, this is a well written, engrossing book.  And while I saw an inkling of the end coming, I didn't even come close to guessing the whole thing.  5/5

And since I have two copies, and have never needed a separate copy of any given book for each hand,  I'd like to give this to one of you.  Tell me why you'd like it.  I'll decide on Tuesday, and send it to someone next Wednesday, based upon who gives me the best reason why they should have it - "As a doggy teething toy" won't work for me - or maybe just do a random drawing.

Talk to me!

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Old Tech

Sometimes, the old technology is just fun.

And sometimes, kids don't "get" things like erase-tape.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Garden Tuesday: Pine Needles

Did you know that a pine tree drops about 1/3 of its needles every year?  That's what creates the wonderful piles of brown needles in the woods, and yet the trees are evergreen.  It's one of nature's wonders.

So, yesterday morning, I got up to find that the wind smelled like a hurricane: warm, damp, noisy; and it had taken down most of the needles which will fall this year, all in one fell swoop.

Aren't they pretty, close up?  I loved pine needles as a child.  They are just a fun place to play.  And if you can gather enough to pile together, they make a cozy chair.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Crusty Brown Rolls

I first made these in August, and have made them once since.  This recipe was found in my old bread cookbook by farmers' wives.  I was not certain that there was a point to beating egg whites stiff only to be added to bread dough, but it was a cholesterol free recipe, which I wanted that particular day.  The cookbook said these were "hard, chewy and delicious," and they didn't disappoint.


1-1/4 cup warm water
2 tbsp yeast
4 cups flour
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp margarine, melted
2 egg whites, beaten stiff

Put the water in your mixing bowl or bread machine bucket, sprinkle the yeast over it, and add the flour, sugar, salt and margarine.  Start mixing, and add the beaten egg whites a scoop at a time.  Let the bread machine continue through its first knead cycle, or beat together with the mixer until the egg whites are thoroughly combined, then let the dough rest, covered with a clean towel, for 10 minutes.  Remove from the bowl, punch the dough down, and form into 16 balls.  Arrange the balls on baking sheets, flatten, and brush with an egg white wash.  Let the rolls rise until about doubled in size, 20 to 30 minutes, while the oven preheats to 425F (400F for a convection oven).  Bake 18 to 20 minutes.  Terrific for Sloppy Joes or other sandwiches!

The beaten egg whites must have been the reason that these rolls had a very fine texture to them.  There were no large or uneven pockets in the rolls, and they had a nice flavor which didn't overpower the rest of the meal. I put mine too close together on the baking sheets, so they rose into each other, thus the sides are not smooth.  No matter; they were cut open anyway.

Brutus was still with us when I first made these, and, of course, he loved his.  I had already taught him that he could not beg at the table, nor could he try to stick his nose on the table, and that he would get a treat at the end of dinner if he was a good boy.  Well, he ate his roll, and looked longingly for another, which we happily gave him.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Big Honey Dog Mystery!

Do you know Honey the Great Dane?  Well, she, or to be more specific, her person, Hsin-Yi, just wrote a book.  I was really excited for her when she got the Kindle version published, knowing that it was a dream of hers.  And now it's out in the US in paperback format.  I may have the first copy in captivity!

by H. Y. Hanna

Honey the Great Dane is miffed at her person, Olivia, for going away and leaving her with a Pet Sitter, who comes with a pesky puppy in tow. Olivia coos that Bean, the Great Dane puppy, looks just like Honey did; this is disloyal in so many ways! So, when it's finally time to take the Pet Sitter and Bean for an afternoon walk, Honey is greatly relieved. She takes Bean and the Pet Sitter to the Dog Park, where she can romp off-leash with her friends. On this particular day, in addition to Bean, there are two other new dogs in the park: Newbie, a rather ugly dog of uncertain breed, and Max, a retired Pit-Bull. Then, when it's time to leave, Bean has disappeared, leaving nothing but a scarab in her place; Honey's friends, Tyson, the Jack Russell Terrier, Biscuit the fat Beagle, Suka the Husky and Ruffster, a medium sized dog of mixed heritage, help with the search. And, worse yet, they meet an imperfect 16 week old puppy in a pet store who confirms that there are a large number of other puppies missing, and scarabs have been found at the sites of all of the disappearances.  Noney's friends suspect Max, the Pit Bull, because Pit Bulls are supposed to be mean, but Honey doubts that Max is involved.  Honey also has a very distinct fear of cats, which she must overcome. There are plenty of mysterious occurrences, heiroglyphics to be deciphered, and run-ins with the colony of Feral Cats. Ms. Hanna writes entirely from the dog's point of view, using references one can imagine a dog might make, such as the myth of the moon being made of liver, or exclamations such as "Howling Hyenas!"

This is a very well written book. It would be appropriate for middle school kids, and for older kids who love dogs. There is a fight at the end of the book, which would make this book somewhat inappropriate for children under age 10, unless read with a parent who could explain how the fight was good in the context of the larger events surrounding it.  I didn't know who was taking the puppies, or why, until it was revealed in the book, and had no idea where they were being held or how Honey and friends would retrieve them, which is the hallmark of a very good writer.  4/5

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thorsday Book Review: Double P. G. Wodehouse

In the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, there's a section called Arena.  And in arena each week, they have some person who's famous in the WSJ world select 5 books they love, maybe that they'd take on vacation or something. A few weeks back, one such person selected his or her (see, I've even forgotten who it was) five favorite books by P. G. Wodehouse.  Of course, I immediately downloaded probably a dozen or more, ignoring altogether which ones were chosen.  I've read these two (during breaks from The Poe Shadow), and enjoyed them.

by P. G. Wodehouse

Sally has just turned 21, and received the proceeds of her trust fund, $25,000, a princely sum indeed around 1910.  She's engaged to a man who's just written a successful play, but is keeping the engagement secret at his request (uh-oh).  Sally holds a dinner party at the boarding house where she resides, and treats herself to a trip to Europe.  While at the beach at the south of France, feeding some dogs, two Englishmen sit near her and proceed to discuss her looks and feeding the dogs.  She later encounters the red-haired man, Ginger, at her hotel, and of course he's quite abashed at having been overheard, but becomes quite smitten with her.  A few days later, when she's boarding a train bound for England, from whence she'll sail back to New York, Sally meets the other man, Ginger's cousin, for whom she has an immediate dislike, but who also is quite attracted to Sally.  Upon returning to New York, Sally learns that her older brother has "invested away" his entire inheritance, so she gives him most of hers to invest; her fiance has married someone else, and Ginger comes to New York to find Sally (as, later, does his cousin).  Lighthearted and fun.  4/5

by P. G. Wodehouse

Jill is engaged to Derek Underhill, a baronet and new member of Parliament, but his very stodgy mother strongly disapproves.  An outing to the theater by Jill and Derek, with Derek's mother and a friend, Freddie Rooke, is interrupted by the stage suddenly catching fire and everyone evacuating the building.  Freddie is sitting separate from the others, and Derek leaves with his mother and without Jill, who is escorted from the building by the stranger sitting beside her, who turns out to be a childhood friend, Wally Mason, who has long ago left for America and was the playwright for the show they'd been watching.  Add in Jill and Freddie's rescue of a mouthy parrot from a jerk, Erb, and their subsequent arrest, Derek's cancellation of the engagement, Jill's Uncle Chris losing her inheritance, Jill's departure for New York, and Freddie following at Derek's behest, and it's a rather entertaining romp.

Here's a sample of the Wodehouse humor, in the form of a conversation between Wally and Freddie when they're both in New York:

"...pal of mine, you know."
"If he is, after what's happened, your mental processes are beyond me."
"My what, old son?"
"Your mental processes."
"Oh, ah!" said Freddie, learning for the first time that he had any.

Fun, indeed.

Happy Thorsday, everyone.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

What is Dan doing to my patio?

Tune in next week, or the week after, for progress updates.

Wordless Wednesday: For Karin

So Sorry that your Vandy has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  I know you miss her.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Garden Tuesday: Hydrangea

Because of the deer damage earlier in the year, our garden guru suggested we use the Miracle Gro sprayer attached to our hose.

See how it's changing the color of the hydrangea?  I'm pretty pleased.  Ryan griped that the pink flowers are too girly for our house; I reminded him that any flowers are girly.  You can see the autumn colors starting, in the silver maple which is behind, but taller than, my weeping cherry tree.

Even the little one which Shannon planted, or, rather, roped her brothers into planting, last fall is turning pink.  I'm delighted.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!