Monday, April 21, 2014

Brazos Bend State Park

Last Friday JMM and I took a picnic lunch to Brazos Bend State Park and enjoyed the warm sunshine and shade under the massive live oaks.  After lunch a stroll along the park trails. Immediately, it was obvious that spring was well under way: Never have we seen so many alligators and turtles! We realized that we always visit Brazos Bend in mid-winter to avoid the heat and mosquitoes so we were never there when the turtles and alligators are out and about. The ducks, of course, were all gone but there were many herons, moorhens, and a grebe or two.  Lovely day.

The Soup Project: New England Fish Chowder

I have not made this but it is on the May menu. I'll let you know how it turns out.

New England Fish Chowder

5 ounces bacon (5 slices), chopped fine
2 onions, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 8 ounce bottles clam juice
1 pound red potatoes (3 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves
2 pounds 1 inch thick cod fillets, rinsed,patted dry, and cut into 1 inch chunks
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate, leaving the rendered fat in the pot. 

Add the onions to the fat into pot and return to medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Slowly stir in the clam juice, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the potatoes, cream, wine, thyme, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 15 minutes. 

Add the fish.  Bring to a brief simmer, then remove the pot from the heat cover and let sit until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. 

Discard the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the bacon and parsley before serving. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; 
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night. 

Sarah Williams, Twilight Hours

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Poetry

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know. 
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow. 

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year. 

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake. 
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. 

Robert Frost, 1923

Friday, April 18, 2014

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, April 26, 2014

1.  Quilting
     Block #1

2.  Reading
     Washington: The Indispensable Man by James Flexner
     The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
     The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
     In the Bleak Mid-Winter by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Audio CDs)

 3.  Cooking
     Baked Ziti with Sausage
     Steak, GMP, Green beans 
     Baked fish, Carrots w/thyme, Asparagus
     Macaroni and cheese
     Oatmeal/Raisin cookies

4.  Birding trip to Brazos Bend State Park if the weather cooperates
     Make reservations for Louisiana Birding trip

5.  Guest Bedroom Project
      Hang framed map prints

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Satisfying Retirement Questions

Bob Lowery's blog, Satisfying Retirement, is a must read. He has such a comfortable, interesting way of writing that I'm sure if we ever met, he and Betty would pick up a conversation just like old friends with Joe and me.  He has some questions about retirement that he has invited his readers to respond to.  Here they are with my response below. 

1) Has retirement turned out the way you thought it would? Why or why not?

2) What has been your biggest surprise about being retired?

3) Do you worry about your financial situation? 

4) What new things have you discovered about yourself?

5)  If you had it do over again, would you keep working, retire sooner, or are content with how things worked out?

I retired 3 years before I had planned to because of a neuromuscular condition.  However, my husband and I were debt and mortgage free and had been fully funding our 403b accounts and emergency fund for many years.  So while I had planned on 3 more years of retirement savings, the financial side of leaving the workplace was in good condition.  I really don't worry about our finances because I have always been the "finance person" in our family and know what our expenses are.  We both waited until age 66 to start drawing Social Security and that with our 403b provides our income. Joe is considering an opportunity to work prn two days a week and that may or may not happen. Now the stock market and the banks and the economy may go belly up but I really don't worry about something I have no control over. 

I love retirement. In all honesty, this is about the happiest time of my life.  I'm not worried about how the kids will turn out-- just fine. Not worried about having enough money to retire--we do. Not really worried about health--my neuromuscular condition is more an inconvenience than life-threatening--we are quite healthy. 
I guess the biggest surprise is just how happy I am. I worked at one job or another since I was 17 and wondered if I would be bored or lonely at home--I'm not.  I have time to quilt and read and learn how to cook new things.  I attend and participate in my church and book club and quilting guild. 

The two best things about retirement to me:
   1. Not having to leap out of bed, into the shower, and out the door.  Waking up slowly is a daily pleasure to savor. 
   2. Afternoon naps. 

If you haven't read Satisfying Retirement, get yourself on over there right now and thank me later.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014



Well, the crisis du jour is Russia and Ukraine.  Politicians make me want to throw up. Putin wants to rev up the ratings on the home front with patriotic fervor so he stirs the pot seeing just how far he can go.  So now Russia has about the same number of troops on the Russian side of the border as we have on the other side of the world in Afghanistan. 

And of course John McCain has never seen an incident he didn't want to bomb and/or send troops to while John Kerry continues to circle the globe in search of relevance. 

We have enough to take care of within our own borders. Let the Ukrainians and the Russians sort it out. And please, folks, give some thought to what happens after the protests and revolutions.