Monday, June 30, 2014

Garden Tuesday: On Monday

I know it's Monday, but I felt the need to show you my peony.  The other one, which is white, already bloomed and I missed it.

Happy Tuesday a day early, everyone!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thorsday Book Review

I recently had the honor of being a beta reader for Honey the Great Dane's person's first adult book.  That sounds like a really cushy job, but it actually involves a lot of thinking, and the ability to be critical without feeling mean!  So I was delighted when Hsin-Yi sent me a gift copy of her very first adult book - only available on Kindle - classic chick-lit!

by H. Y. Hanna

Leah was a British expat raised in Singapore by her father after her mother died when she was a baby.  At the age of 14, her father abruptly sent her to boarding school back in Britain, and she never returned to Singapore.  One day, she received a phone call from the police in Singapore that her father was dead, killed by a hit-and-run driver.  As she worked to arrange time off from work and a flight, and pack some clothes, her roommate contacted her "first love" from 8th grade in Singapore, over a decade earlier, Toran James, and arranged for Leah to meet him for coffee while she was back in Singapore.

Seems like a simple enough trip, right?  Except that Leah perceives that she's being followed through the airports starting in London.  And her best friend Julie from Singapore tells her that she can't possibly meet Toran, because he was blown up on a yacht a couple of days ago.  Oh, and there's a dead body fished out of a river, and her father's house has been ransacked.  And, yes, that guy is still following her around.

This is a romantic personal mystery: personal because it involves foul play against people close to Leah, and there is some romance involving Toran.  This book isn't "explicit romance" (which seems to have come into vogue of late), and it works well.  Hsin-Yi has done well with her "Honey" mysteries, and she's proving herself to be a good adult author as well.  5/5

Note: I did receive a copy of this book to review, and no other compensation.  All opinions are my own.

This Thorsday Book review is hosted by Buffy, who looks like she's selecting a book to enjoy herself!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Angel Food Cake!

Every year, Louise hosts an online picnic. I wasn't going to join in this year, because life in my little corner of the world is incredibly busy this year, but I made this cake, and she graciously gave me the letter A, so here I am!

I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing.....


12 egg whites
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

Sift together the flour and cornstarch and set aside.

Bring the egg whites to room temperature and beat with the  cream of tartar until foamy.  Add the vanilla and almond extract and beat until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar 2 tbsp at a time and beat until stiff peaks form.  Fold in the flour mixture, turn into an ungreased 10" tube pan, and bake at 350F for 40 to 45 minutes.

My dearly beloved saw me separating the eggs, which he's evidently never witnessed before, and about jumped out of his skin in distress when he realized I was discarding the yolks, instead of keeping them for "something else."  It was rather amusing.

Ryan walked past the egg whites while they were beating, and declared that the scent was very tempting, and I should be sure to save some of this cake for when he got home from work.  Poor guy; as if I have ever failed to save him cake!

All in all, this is a much easier cake to make than one might imagine.  And just look at this light and fluffy texture!  It truly almost does qualify as "diet cake"!

On July 1, Louise will be featuring a roundup of all of the offerings for the Picnic Game, so be sure to check in with her then!  Happy Picnicking!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Winston

Patiently waiting for his People to return!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Not My Garden on Tuesday

This is clearly not my yard.

 But I'm sure you know where we were last night.

It's the night when, as one of the student speakers said, everyone gets dressed up to wear a poncho, and the girls work hard at getting their hair just right, so they can put a square hat decorated with a cat toy on their heads.

It's a bittersweet event,

pride mingled with tears, as our second to youngest gets one step closer to embarking upon that wonderful journey called adulthood,

while our boy exudes joy.

(I don't think this guy was invited.  He just hopped in to join the party, and evidently have a late lunch.)

It was a great day.  We are proud of Ryan, our National Merit Commended Scholar (who got an 800 on his math SAT).

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thorsday Book Review: "...And Ladies of the Club"

It is amazing that Sue mentioned this book a few weeks back, and it happened to be in my living room, on the lower shelf of a sofa table located between two sofas, where I rarely look.  And then to have Kathy endorse it after I found it?  That meant I had to read it.

By Helen Hooven Santmyer

This is an epic of a book, clocking in at nearly 1200 pages and spanning in excess of 60 years.The story starts in 1868, with Anne Alexander and Sally Cochran graduating from high school in Waynesboro, Ohio.  This was a class of 14 girls, each of whom made a speech; Anne' speech was last, since she was the valedictorian of the class.  General Deming, the congressman for Waynesboro, made a speech; a young teacher, Louise Tucker (called "Teapot" by the students, since she had moved from Boston with her teapot, convinced that such a thing would not be available in the wilderness of Ohio) was besotted by the General.  Anne's late brother's best friend, John Gordon, was in attendance with her father, and had brought with him an army buddy, Ludwig Rausch.  John, 10 years Anne's senior and a doctor like Anne's father and brother, married Anne.  Sally contrived to meet that day Ludwig, and married him.

A few weeks after graduation, Sally and Anne were invited to meet with some of the older ladies of Waynesboro, who were interested in starting a Ladies' Club which would be for the sole purpose of intellectual pursuits.  They were the youngest charter members, with Louise "Teapot" Tucker a few years older, and 9 other ladies still older comprising the remaining members.  The book follows the ladies of the club and others who had relationships with them through the next 65 years: through marriages, children, deaths.  The ladies also founded a private library in Waynesboro, because they felt the dearth of available reading material.

This book also gives great insight into the national feeling throughout that time.  Ludwig's business feels the effects of the Long Depression (it's real - look it up), as does John's medical practice.  The sentiment toward national political figures is also mentioned (Teddy Roosevelt considered a loose cannon; Woodrow Wilson considered useless).  A flood decimating that region of Ohio, and business leaders in town organizing people to move out of harm's way.  Rheumatic Fever.  Polio.  The advent of the horseless carriage.  Paving of the streets.  Intolerance of other Christians by Reform Presbyterians.  Intolerance of Irish Catholics by everyone.

This book took me an uncharacteristically long time to read, because each chapter was very long, often between 30 and 50 pages, so I didn't sit down to read it unless I had some time.  I felt what the characters felt; the book read as if it was written not by Anne or Sally, but as if they had told their stories to someone.  At the very end of the book, I was overjoyed to find the character I believe to be Helen herself, and came to understand how it was researched and written.

Sadly, this book does appear to be out of print, although used copies are available on the internet.  If you can find a copy of the book, it's well worth the considerable time needed to read it, if only for a greater understanding of the changes which have occurred in our world in only 150 years.

(She looks like I thought Anne looked through the book, although she is 25 years younger than Anne.  She was my great grandmother, in 1890 or so.)

Happy Thorsday, Everyone!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Computer or Rocket Ship?

Ryan built it for me.

Looks to me like it could be either.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gardern Tuesday: Rhododendron in the Rain

I looked out my kitchen window this morning, after it rained all night, and saw this:

It bloomed about a month ago, too.  Hooray!  Two sets of flowers on the same rhododendron outside my kitchen window in the same spring!

(Don't look at the streaks on the window.  They are outside, and there's no way I'm climbing on a ladder to wash the outsides of the windows.)

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lemon Meringue Pie

My dearly beloved loves nothing more than a good pie.  His mother was a champion pie baker, and he holds her pies amongst his fondest memories.  I don't even pretend to be worthy of mention in pie world, but I do put forth effort now and again.

Hubby's favorite pie is most likely Lemon Meringue (although he does love apple pie, which I very rarely make, because I hate the apple preparation rigamarole).  So for a while now I've been striving to make a lemon filling worthy of my dearly beloved's attention, while not loaded with cholesterol and sugar (3 egg yolks in a pie make for a lot of cholesterol in every bite, after all).  And I've finally done it!  The menfolk raved!  And cheered!  And ate!  A lot!


1 baked pie crust
1-1/2 cups sugar
6 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp lemon extract
2 tbsp egg beaters
4 drops yellow food coloring
6 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp margarine
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

Use whatever kind of pie crust pleases you - store bought, your favorite, or my Best Pie Crust Ever.  I used that because, while it has butter, it is a relatively small amount of cholesterol, and I don't see the point of wasting my time on a crust no one wants to eat.  Use a 10" pie plate, and bake your pie crust at 350F for about 10 minutes, until it's just lightly browned.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, salt and sugar.  Stir in the water and lemon extract, and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for 2 minutes.  Remove the hot sugar mixture from the heat, and drizzle in the egg beaters, stirring vigorously.  Return to the heat and cook for 2 more minutes.  Remove from the heat again, and drizzle in the lemon juice, stirring constantly.  Add the food coloring and margarine and stir until well combined.  Pour into the pie crust.

Put the egg whites in a mixing bowl with the cream of tartar, and beat until frothy.  Add the 1/8tsp lemon extract and vanilla extract, and beat until soft peaks form.  Beat in the sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form.   Spread over the top of the hot lemon filling.  Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned.  Cool before serving.

I tried this lemon filling 3 or 4 times before I got it right.  Even when I had the flavor and consistency right, it was "not that good" without the yellow food coloring, because it was a rather tan color.  So you can eliminate the food coloring if you wish, but it won't look quite as good.  I'm afraid that appearance really does affect flavor, at least in my little corner of the world.  I also tried replacing some of the sugar with stevia, but the filling never set up right, so I was serving "pile" instead of "pie".

So there you have it!  15 mg of cholesterol per (pretty big) slice of pie, and all the flavor of the original 120-mg-per-slice goodness!  How's that for a great dessert, almost guilt free?  And my dearly beloved was fretting that he would never get anything good to eat again.  Ha.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Thorsday Book Review: Honey Dog Mystery #2!

A couple of months back, Mark and I read an early edition of the second in the Big Honey Dog Mystery series.  These are geared to kids, tweens really, but they are an entertaining, light read.  And since Mark had just passed from "tween" to "teen", he was a good critic for Hsin-Yi.

Then, last week, I received my own personal "pawtographed" copy of this book, and had the opportunity to read it again!

by H. Y. Hanna

Honey the Great Dane has gone to a dog show with her person, Olivia, who was the official show photographer; many of her friends from book one are there, too, as spectators, and one, Suka, as a competitor.  Upon arrival, Honey learned that she has a sister, Anja, who looks just like her, but has been trained as a show dog!  So, when Anja fell mysteriously ill on the eve of the first round of competition, Honey quickly learned the rules of the ring and took her place.  Of course, she didn't win, because that would have been cheesy, but she did manage to hold her own in the competition.

There's nothing terribly mysterious in a dog show, of course, except that there had not been a dog show held at this location for 10 years, since the fire in which 2 dogs had perished.  And the grounds were said to be haunted by a Phantom Hound.  So, when other dogs began to fall ill after they had won one round of their competitions, it became clear to Honey, Ruffster, Biscuit and Suka that some nefarious scheme had been plotted.

This really was a fun book, with Honey and company getting to know many different dogs (and Ruffster becoming besotted by Collette the French Poodle).  As the book's cover says, "Haunted dog show.  Jealous rivals.  Serious slobber."  This author has a talent for telling a good, lighthearted story which is good as a read-along for grade school kids, and fun for tweens.  Fans of YA lit would probably enjoy this, too, since there are enough twists to keep the reader guessing as to the identity of the real culprit right to the end.  To paraphrase Ferrari the Cocker Spaniel, Hsin-Yi has proven her "kennel creds" as an author with this book.

This Thorsday Book Review is hosted by Buffy, AKA "Other Cat", who is visiting with us while her humans are gadding about in Europe.  Unlike Winston, Buffy is eager to play with anyone who passes her way, and doesn't ignore us in acknowledgement of our presence.  Plus, she does look somewhat like Honey the Great Dane's kitty sister, Meusli, so Buffy seemed like an appropriate hostess!

You can find this book here at Amazon; Buffy hopes you enjoy it!

Happy Thorsday on Friday, everyone!  Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Marinated Artichoke Hearts

This is an easy side for a summer meal.  My dearly beloved loves artichokes no matter how prepared, so the other night I decided to surprise him with something he hadn't had in a while.


Canned Artichoke Hearts


1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp onion powder
2/3 cup vegetable oil

Drain the artichoke hearts, rinse in cold water, quarter and put in a bowl.  Pour the vinegar and water into a cruet or jar, add the garlic powder, onion powder and Italian seasoning (note: you can use your own blend of seasonings, but I buy mine from Spice Barn, and it's good).  Shake together to blend, then add the oil and shake well.  Pour some over the artichokes and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Stir before serving.

The marinade also makes a great salad dressing.  Note that there's no salt in it, and yet my dearly beloved salt fiend really liked this.  Canned artichokes do have some salt in them, but I'm not about to steam, peel and chop artichokes so I can make these from scratch.  That defeats the point of "fast and easy", don't you think?