Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thorsday Book Review: Shane

Well, we got Mark's summer reading list for 10th grade.  Want to see it?

I read Cyrano years ago.  Fan of the story; not a fan of reading plays.  So this one won't be on my to-do list.  But who am I kidding?  I have yet to finish Mark's (or Ryan's) summer reading from last summer.  Life gets in the way and all that.....

But, since I had to take Mark for a football physical, I grabbed this book.  It was short, so I figured, why not?  Worthwhile choice.

by Jack Shaefer

This is the story of young Bob Starrett, who lives in Wyoming in the late 1800s, and his parents.  One afternoon, while working with his father, Bob noticed a rider a good distance away, and watched him approach.  The rider asked the favor of Mr. Starrett allowing him and his horse to drink, and introduced himself: "Call me Shane."  Bob's father insisted that Shane stay for dinner, and pass the night in the hired hand's quarters; that night turned into a season for Shane on the Starrett ranch, working the cattle, improving the barn and fences, removing a large stump.  The big rancher across the river, who resented the homesteaders, including the Starretts, and wanted to reclaim their stakes, started causing trouble; Shane found himself right in the middle of it.

This is billed as a teen book, but it didn't feel that way to me.  It's a story about friendship, hard work and loyalty.  I very much enjoyed it.  5/5

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

I may just be the luckiest Mom ever!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thorsday Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees

I know it's Friday.  But Thorsday escaped from me.  I decided to wash some of my sheer curtains, and 6 rooms later, it was time to cook dinner.  Ergo, no Thorsday Book Review until today (I"m laundered out for now).

My daughter in law found this book on a shelf while they were living here for a few weeks, read it and enjoyed it.  I remembered having seen the movie some years ago, and, thus had purchased it from a book sale a year or 2 back; sadly, I don't read all that I've purchased quite as quickly as I'd like.  DIL had left it on the coffee table one night, I found it and started it, and so it began.

by Sue Monk Kidd
copyright 2003

Lily is a 14 year old girl in the early 1960s.  Her mother died when she was about 6 from a gunshot, and her father is a cold, distant, sometimes mean man.  Lily had found a small metal box in the attic containing a few things of her mother's and buried it in their peach orchard, so she could dig it up and look at her mother's things when she felt especially lonely.  The only affection Lily had was that of her nanny, a black woman named Rosaleen.

One day, Rosaleen was walking downtown to register to vote, so Lily decided to walk with her.  A group of white men harangued Rosaleen, who dumped her jar of tobacco juice on their feet.  They beat her up, the sheriff was called, Rosaleen was arrested, and Lily hauled off to jail, as well, until her father came to get her.  Rosaleen was transferred to the hospital, under guard, after sustaining more "mysterious" injuries in jail, so Lily packed some things, including her mother's metal box, broke Rosaleen out of the hospital/jail, and they set off walking to Tiberion, a name she found on the back of a black Madonna picture she found amongst her mother's belongings.  The kindness of strangers helped her find a Pepto Bismol pink house where honey was made and sold with the Black Madonna label on the jars.

The book is the story of a white girl living with her black nanny and 3 kind black ladies for a summer, learning to keep bees, and learning life lessons along the way, all in search of the truth about her mother's life and death.  It's moving, thought provoking, and not sickeningly sweet.  5/5

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Trees on a Hill

This is one of the big blue spruce trees in the middle of my lawn.

No, I wasn't drunk or stupid when I took the picture.  It's on a hill, so the ground runs that way.

This is one of about a dozen maple trees we had dug up from the woods at the bottom of our yard and transplanted as 1" to 2" diameter saplings (bare root) in very early 1990.  I'm always amused at how the trunks have twisted so the trees are growing straight toward the sky, instead of perpendicular to the ground.

My kids laugh at how I have stories about so many of our trees.  I tell them that's what happens when you share your home and life with a tree fanatic, and stay in one place for a quarter of a century.

How about you, do you think of some of your trees fondly?

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, July 21, 2014

(Almost) Health Food Pizza

Late last week, my dearly beloved was bemoaning the fact that there was "nothing good" to eat in the house and he can't ever have good food again.  (To be fair, he and his sons always wail about the fact that there is "no food in the house" and yet can't tell me what would constitute food, other than perhaps pounds upon pounds of cooked meat sitting in the fridge, awaiting their consumption).

So I decided to show him that (a) he can have good food, and (b) upon half an hour's notice, or thereabouts, I can produce something from "nothing".


1-1/2 cups warm water
2-1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups regular flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tbsp yeast
olive oil for brushing
shredded mozzarella

Pour the water in your bread machine bucket or mixing bowl; sprinkle with the yeast, then add flour, salt and olive oil.  Mix according to my directions over there --------> (or in any way that makes you happy).  After the dough has been mixed and kneaded for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and shiny, remove from the bowl, split into 2 and roll out onto 11"x17" baking trays.  Brush the tops of the crust with olive oil, spread sauce over the crusts (I used leftover spaghetti sauce from the previous night, because I have never bothered to remember that cooking pasta for 5 requires considerably less sauce than pasta for 11), sprinkle with oregano, and top with shredded mozzarella (I used about 8 ounces per pizza).  Put into a cold oven, set for 425F, and walk away for 20 to 25 minutes.  It will rise, it will cook, it will smell drool-worthy, and everyone will be happy.

Note: you can add cooked meat, onions or whatever before sprinkling on the cheese.  I dislike onions, can't eat peppers and despise mushrooms, so those are out of the question.  I also didn't add ground beef in an effort to control the cholesterol content.  Feel free to splurge, if you'd like.  But it was great "as is".

After making a smaller batch for lunch one day, I made the double batch for dinner when the newlyweds were passing through.  Everyone loved it.

So there you are, in about the time it takes to phone in an order and go fetch it, you can have fresh, piping hot, Almost Health Food Pizza!  Glad to help you out.

Hope you're all having a great Monday.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Double Thorsday Book Review: Duds

I read two books recently that were duds, and thought I'd get them out of my pea sized brain by warning everyone about them.

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I found this in my attic a couple of weeks ago, when I went upstairs to clean out the central air conditioning filter and check the drainage line for leaks. (No leaks, filter was OK, I have no idea why the ceiling below it was wet.  Not that it matters.)  I was pretty excited, because, well, it's good ol' F. Scott himself.  Someone must have paid a quarter or so for this at a used book sale, because it's a paperback, printed before the US had zip codes.

This is the story of Amory Blaine, a child of privilege, whose mother rarely resides with his father; his childhood in Switzerland and Minnesota, private high school and Princeton University.  It's a self-absorbed, frankly boring story.  I've since read that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote this book and had it published at the age of 23 to impress Zelda.  I'm glad that worked out for him, because it didn't impress me.  2/5

by Carolyn Parkhurst

I bought this at a used book sale because of the dog on the cover, with the intention of sending it to the relative in Denver.  It's a large print edition (she has vision issues), so I thought she would enjoy it.  But I decided to read it first, and I'm glad I did.

Paul Iverson, a professor of linguistics, came home from work one day to find emergency crews in his yard. His wife, Lexi, had fallen from the top of an apple tree in their yard, and only their dog, Lorelei, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, was there.  Paul decides that he should take a sabbatical and teach the dog to speak, so she can tell him what happened to Lexi: was it an accident or suicide?

The book bothered me.  I understand being distraught over the loss of a spouse. However (and don't lynch me for this if you disagree), I don't think dogs can relate a third person's experience and feelings.  Not that dogs don't remember people - they do - just that they can't understand what's going on in someone else's head, and identify what they did.  Paul starts trying to make Lorelei talk, learn sounds, for things like water, with the idea that he can get her to narrate Lexi's demise to him.  I found that creepy.

And then he began corresponding with someone who had been arrested for performing gruesome surgeries on dogs to render them capable of speech.  Ick.  Double ick.  Ultimately, Paul figured out on his own what had happened, but by that time, I was just scanning the book.  It's not going to Denver, because I don't want to upset its intended recipient; I'll donate it to Goodwill instead.  Maybe someone else will like it.  2/5

This Thorsday Book Review is brought to you by Winston, surveying the world from the comfort of what he would surely describe as his window.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Daffodil Cake

Earlier this week, Louise posted a chiffon cake she'd made, and it inspired me.  So off to Fannie Farmer I went to peruse chiffon cakes, and found a recipe for Daffodil Cake, so called for its appearance, with an orange frosting!


9 egg whites
1-1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour, sifted
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp orange rind
1 tsp orange extract.

Beat the egg yolks until thick; add the 1/4 cup sugar and beat until very light colored.  Add the orange extract and orange rind and set aside. (I added 3 drops of yellow food coloring because it didn't look yellow enough, and I didn't want my menfolk to complain about a lack of color).

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla until fluffy.  Add the 1 cup sugar a bit at a time and beat until stiff.  Sift together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder, and stir into the egg whites.  (OK, so I gently beat it in with my wire whisk attachment, and it worked fine.  But maybe you want to be a perfectionist about it.)  Take 1/3 of the egg white mixture and fold it into the egg yolk mixture.  Put alternating spoonsful of the white and yellow mixtures into a greased 10" tube pan (the recipe says ungreased, but I greased mine anyway), then bake at 350F for 28 to 35 minutes, until the cake tests done.  Turn upside down on a plate to cool before removing the pan from the cake.  Frost with Fannie's own Light Butter Frosting:


1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp orange rind*
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Beat the 1/2 cup confectioners sugar with the butter until well combined, add orange peel if desired, and set aside.  Beat the egg whites until stiff with the orange extract, and beat in the 1 cup confectioners sugar.  Combine the egg white and butter mixtures, adding more confectioner's sugar if necessary to thicken.  Frost the sides and top of the cake.

The frosting was a little runny, even after I refrigerated it, and my dearly beloved and Ryan both opined that the orange rind in the frosting was a little bitter the first night (it mellowed the second day), so take that into consideration when making this.  But overall, they loved this cake.  And while not as "fat free" as Angel Food Cake, it's still not bad for you.

So, Louise, I'm linking this recipe up with you! 

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Copper Beech

Have you ever seen a copper beech?  I'm not sure I had before we moved here.  Even now, I don't usually notice ours, because it's nestled in a corner of the property where the driveway and house are both looking away from it.

 Looking across part of our lawn toward our property line you can see it.

It's the tallest thing out there, and it's reddish purple. 

Aren't the leaves interesting?

My dearly beloved says it's certainly 300 years old.  For reference, the fence behind it is made up of 1" square steel bars spaced 6" apart.

Don't you love to just look up the trunk of a tree, through the branches?  Unfortunately, I'd brought my telephoto lens instead of the wide angle lens, and there was no way I was walking the half mile round trip back to the house, even to entertain all of you.  Sorry.

I hope you enjoyed my Copper Beech.  It's been a good friend to us for a long time, and to many others since before Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were born!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Visiting Dogs on Thorsday

I was going to review a book or 2 which I'd read, but I'm just not inspired.  So instead I'll introduce Natasha, who is not mine.

My lawyer daughter rescued a dog in May.  She told me it is a big dog; of course, I "yes,yes'ed" her, because everyone thinks a golden retriever is big, right?  And she told me it was very furry; naturally, I thought the size of the dog would be all fur.  Oh, and Natasha doesn't much care for men.  Terrific.  Because it's not like this family is 2/3 or so composed of men.

And then, for the Fourth of July weekend, Natasha the Russian Mountain Dog came to visit.  Turns out that she is about the size of a female mastiff, but fluffier.

And she liked the Great Red Protector.  Shannon said it's because he smells like her (and her daddy hopes she doesn't smell quite that poorly, as he said).

Natasha is really well trained.  Follows her person around like a shadow.  Doesn't bark.  Doesn't beg.  Doesn't counter surf.  Doesn't even snag samples from the table or counter, although she easily could.

So Natasha will come to visit again, probably every 3 to 4 weeks, if her person follows previous patterns.  Meanwhile, she's now a paralegal, I guess, since she sits in her person's office every day to confer with clients in their "pet friendly" building.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Macaroni Salad for Independence Day

We had thunderstorms last Thursday and Friday nights.  That didn't stop the hungry hordes fromthinking that we should have Independence Day picnics, which I always hold indoors.  (In case you're new here, or have forgotten, I hate eating outside because I don't like bugs.  I also hate cooking outside because (a) I don't like bugs and (b) I hate black lines on my food.  Fussy, Fussy.)

One of the things my hungry horde demanded was macaroni salad.  I've never made such a thing.  My mother loved the stuff, and I just didn't, so cold pasta salads never made it into my repertoire.  So, I winged it.


2 pounds elbow macaroni
1-1/2 cups lowfat mayonnaise
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 pound carrots, shredded
1 bunch scallions, coarsely chopped
1 cup nonfat milk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
fresh ground pepper

Boil the macaroni, strain and rinse with cold water.  Drop the strainer into iced water for a few minutes to complete the cooling process.  Meanwhile, in a giant bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and dijon mustard.  Whisk the milk into this mixture until it's thinner and creamy.  Add the relish, carrots and scallions, and stir until well combined.  Add pepper to taste (I used 20 turns).  Remove the macaroni from the iced water, shake the strainer well, and stir into the dressing.  Chill and serve.  It tastes better the second day, according to my hordes, who loved it from day one.

So there you are!  An easy side dish for these hot days!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Visitor

I went outside to take a picture of my dogwood, which has been blooming for about a week, and I found a brazen visitor standing right on my terrace.

 As I walked outside, she just looked at me,

And then strode toward me as if to say, "What are you doing in my yard?'

And then sashayed toward the house.  Not AWAY.  Toward.

And people wonder why I'm forever buying deer repellant spray to protect my plants from them.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Picnic Game!

Today is July 1, and the day Louise officially posts links to all of the participants in her Picnic Game!

If you haven't already stopped by, be sure to catch her round-up of all the delectable offerings, including my very own Angel Food Cake.

(And this is why Garden Tuesday fell on Monday this week.)

Happy Tuesday, everyone!