Friday, August 29, 2008

Needlework - getting there...

The metallic thread arrived and I stitched the Algerian eyelets:

I listened to an audio book and cross-stitched the flowers:

I carefully cut and removed threads:

I wrapped and stitched the center full Greek crosses:

And now I need to wrap bars and stitch the partial Greek crosses, remove all basting threads, then hem. And I will... soon.


Cake Brownies with No-Cook Fudge Frosting

We have new neighbors (a young couple with a dog, three cats - and the couple is expecting their first baby!) and we wanted to meet them and take them something nice to eat. Joan decided she would try a new brownie recipe, and make a batch for us, too.

Both recipes come from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, Special Edition

Cake Brownies
3/4 c. butter, melted
1 1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 c. milk
1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 recipe No-Cook Fudge Frosting (to follow)

Stir together butter, sugar, cocoa powder, eggs and vanilla. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to chocolate mixture, beating after each addition. Stir in nuts. Pour batter into greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake in 350-degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes. Cool 2 hours on a wire rack. Frost with No-Cook Fudge Frosting, then cut into bars. Makes 48 brownies.

No-Cook Fudge Frosting
9 c. sifted powdered sugar (about 2 pounds)
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. boiling water
2 tsp. vanilla

In a very large bowl combine powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add butter, boiling water, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat for 1 minute on medium speed. If necessary, cool for 20 minutes or until mixture reaches spreading consistency. (This frosts tops and sides of two 8- or 9- inch cake layers.)

The brownies were very good.

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Waiting for Snow in Havana

Our local library book club chose Carlos Eire's memoir, Waiting for Snow in Havana, to read and discuss in September.

This book of Mr. Eire's childhood memories of growing up in Batista-era Cuba, living through the "Agrarian Revolution," and experiencing the first few years of Castro's disastrous regime was an unexpected pleasure to read. His descriptions of Havana in the 195o's and his life with his odd family (his father believed that he was a reincarnation of Louis XVI) are entertaining, and at times beautiful. But he also honestly describes the ugliness and the lies and the terror of Castro and his people.

When he was 11, his mother flew Carlos and his brother to Miami. She was not able to join them until three years later. By that time, Carlos and Tony had seen their lives radically changed. They went from being privileged sons of a well-to-do judge to being taunted and jeered at as "spics" living in poverty and shunted from place to place. When their mother arrived they were 14 and 16 and from that point on they worked to support her. Their father decided to remain in Cuba with his massive collection of artwork and expensive artifacts. Carlos never saw him again.

The book was sometimes idyllic and sometimes sad, but it was one I'm recommending my children all read - so I bought a second copy.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blooming: A Small-Town Girlhood

Blooming: A Small-Town Girlhood by Susan Allen Toth turned out to be a good reading list choice for August.

Ms. Toth writes with fondness about growing up in Ames, Iowa during the 1950's. This is a pleasant memoir dwelling on the positive and good. Nothing salacious, no bitterness, anger, or even remorse is in this. It's a very soothing reminiscence of a time that, by Ms. Toth's account, appears to have been easier and more innocent than the time we now live in.

It's a nice book.

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Super Fig Cobbler

One of my parents' friends has seven fig trees. Dad picked a box of figs for us to enjoy, and we ate some fresh, but I wanted to do something else with the rest of them. I like to quarter the ripe figs, put a dollop of goat cheese in the middle of each fig, drizzle honey over them, and broil them in the oven for a few minutes. But no one else will eat them that way.

I found this recipe for Super Fig Cobbler and asked Joan and Jacy if they'd make it for me. They did and it was fantastic! It tasted more like apple cobbler to me, and the recipe says you can substitute apples for figs. We halved the recipe, and it made a standard pie. The pastry was delicious, too.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

End of August

This month has been different from what I was expecting. I thought we'd enjoy lazy, slow days up to Labor Day, then dive back into activities and schoolwork. Instead we've all been non-stop busy - but it's been very very good!

Tom and Jacy are back in school at Auburn. Sarah and Joan are in classes at a community college and at a church in Auburn. Joan had her 16th birthday (and got her driver's license) and Karin had her 21st birthday. Amy picked up the keys for their new house on base in Mississippi, and moved some of their things into it already. Hayley started 2nd grade. Sarah began working at the library (and is reading a book a day - I'm so jealous!) and David went back to work at the high school filming the football practices and games. Steve made several trips for work this month, the most recent one being a trip to the Gulf of Mexico to take a client out fishing on a 55-foot boat (what a job, huh?). I filled out reams of paperwork for school/doctor's office/dentist's office/field trips. And I did knit, crochet, and read when I could.

We tried a few new recipes, but I'll admit we also had a lot of meals consisting of cereal or sandwiches (Steve was away a lot, remember?)

Today we went to the lake after Hayley came home from school.

The babies were so excited and they played non-stop.

Amy was excited about her new phone and played with it.

The older kids and the dog swam and jumped off the dock numerous times, built sand castles and forts, and stayed active.

Joan plugged in her iPod and napped.

Sarah found a quiet spot far from the madding crowd and read a book.

And I crocheted and read.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Bandit went home...

... and her real name is Ginger.

On Friday afternoon, someone saw this picture on the door of a veterinarian's office and thought it looked like her neighbor's lost dog.

Within half an hour, Rose and her son were at our house to get their dog, Ginger. Cocoa and Ginger had gone roaming, so Rose told her son to whistle. Marley said Ginger came flying through the neighbor's back yard and leaped ecstatically on her owners. That was one happy dog! And her owners were delighted to find her. She'd been missing for three weeks and they'd despaired of finding her again. She was far from home - we live 15 miles from her owners, and they think a neighbor that didn't like the dog took her and abandoned her in our town.

Isn't that sad?

But we have a happy ending! Happy Ginger to have her family back, happy Rose to have her dog back, and happy us to have one less pet and to see Rose and Ginger reunited!


Thursday, August 07, 2008


We have another dog - temporarily. I'm still hoping her rightful owner will see the signs we've pasted up all over town and at the vets' offices and come claim her.

Two weeks ago this little dog appeared in our yard. She had a red collar and a flea collar, but no tags. At first we thought the neighbors next door might have a new dog. But when we took her to them they said she wasn't theirs. We put signs up with pictures of the dog, made more inquiries, but got nowhere.

Steve said we could not keep her. "NO MORE ANIMALS!" I agreed. We have enough pets. On Tuesday I asked Tom to take her to the shelter. One of the veterinarian's assistants told me the animal shelter would take the dog, keep her for a month while they tried to find a family to adopt her, then if they couldn't find anyone to take her, call us before they put her to sleep.

But... when Tom took her to the shelter, they said they'd wait 4 days for someone to claim her, then put her down on Saturday. He left her there and came home and told me. I didn't tell the other children, but I was very disappointed about it. She was such a sweet and well-behaved little dog, and she was starting to answer to the name Tom had given her - Bandit.

While Steve and I were eating dinner Tuesday night (he was late getting home so we ate together after everyone else) I said, "The dog is gone. Tom took her to the shelter. They'll kill her Saturday." I didn't say any more, because I was afraid I'd cry, and it seemed silly to be so sad about a stray dog. Steve said nothing.

Later that night Steve said to me, "I guess we need to go get that dog before Friday." I couldn't believe it! It was such a magnanimous gesture on his part - something I knew he really did not want to do he offered to do willingly. The children and I were very grateful and happy.

Yesterday Tom went back to the shelter and got her. He said she was excited to see him. Today we took her to our vet and got her shots, de-worming meds, and heartworm pills. And made an appointment to have her spayed next Tuesday. The vet said, "You're not going to give her up if someone calls to claim her. Look at her - she has claimed you. You're HER family."


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Janet's Meme

Janet tagged me and I've finally made time to respond.

What was I doing ten years ago?
Marley was nine months old and into everything. I'm sure I was chasing her, chasing the older children outside to play, and because we were in Jacksonville, NC then, and summer is quite steamy there, I'm certain I was listening to complaints about having to play outside in the heat.

Five snacks I enjoy:
tortilla chips
dry roasted peanuts
peanut M&M's
trail mix

Five things on my to-do list today:
Get dog from animal shelter.
Get Jacy's Lizard Ridge afghan from Darlene's Knit Shop.
Take Marley to a pool party.
Make beef stroganoff for supper.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
The only thing that immediately comes to mind is pay a huge amount in taxes.

Five jobs I have had:
food-service worker
gas-station attendant
ESL aide
long-term substitute teacher

Five of my bad habits:
Waiting for someone else (anyone else) to answer the phone.
Cracking my knuckles.
Reading instead of doing what I should be doing.
Yelling up the stairs at the children instead of walking upstairs and speaking in a normal voice.
Washing almost all the dishes, but leaving one or two in the sink.

Five places I have lived:
Auburn, Alabama
Irvine, California
Memphis, Tennessee
Beaufort, South Carolina
Romulus, New York

Five people I would like to get to know better:

Five random things about me:
I like figs.
I rarely have trouble sleeping.
I do not enjoy flying.
I like using my solar-powered/wind-powered dryer.
On Monday I dressed in the dark (so as not to wake Steve), left the house, ran various errands and was in and out of several stores and at 10:00 a.m. (four hours after getting dressed) I discovered - on my own - that I was wearing these shoes:

I thought it was hilarious! But I couldn't get home to change them until after noon. What do you think everyone who saw me thought? And why did no one say anything?!


Friday, August 01, 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver has been on my "must-read" list for a while. Tom had to read The Omnivore's Dilemma for a class last year, and he brought Ms. Kingsolver's book to my attention. Then I read a review at one of Semicolon's Saturday Reviews.

I found it at the library last week and read it. The subject matter was one I found interesting: try to eat locally as much as possible. I've seen several articles in the paper about families doing this, and Ms. Kingsolver, her husband, and her two daughters resolved to eat locally (in Virginia) for a year. I think it's a great idea, and the Kingsolver-Hopp family seemed to do it with great planning, and enthusiasm. I do think that it's an activity that up until a few years ago was widely practiced - at least in many rural areas. When I was growing up, my parents always planted a garden and Mom canned and froze local fruits and home-grown vegetables every year. We got our milk from a farmer down the road, and our meat and poultry came from local farms, too.

The last two years have been horrible because of the severe drought here, and I've been so thankful that we were able to have food from places that had rain! But this summer has been better, and we've enjoyed food from the garden in our back yard, and from gardens of other people in town that have shared with us. Local, fresh (as in just harvested) vegetables and fruit have a taste so much better than produce a few days old.

I liked reading Barbara Kingsolver's food diary/memoir, and I wonder how much they still practice, after their "year" ended. At first I found her tone to be hectoring and snooty, and in places more like a diatribe than a memoir. Then about half-way through the book I realized she did not mean to come across that way, and probably had no idea that she might sound elitist to some readers.

The last few chapters in which she relates her experience of raising and breeding turkeys were especially heart-warming. And the recipes and menus throughout the book are terrific.

And she inspired me to check out our local farmer's market last weekend. Steve and Sam decided to come with me and we had a lovely morning shopping for local produce. For $35 we got a lot of food - food we enjoyed all week long, and some we blanched or cooked and froze.


The Secret of Fiery Gorge

This book was in my stack for summer reading. It's by Wilson Gage, the author of Miss Osborne-the-Mop. I read it yesterday and it was perfect for reading while watching the children swim.

I was reminded of Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away because the story takes place in the summer with a younger brother, an older sister, and a boy cousin. But in this book the family vacation is in the mountains of North Carolina and the children figure out the mystery regarding the gorge while meeting some kind local people and observing some strange men. Nothing earth-shattering happens, but it's a nice book for children.

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