Thursday, July 31, 2014

Around OakMeadows


It has been busy around OakMeadows. We adopted 2 little black kittens from the local animal shelter 2 weeks ago. I wanted to take them immediately to our own vet because experience has taught me that animals from shelters (especially kittens) are often sick. Long story, short: I didn't but I should have. They have now been treated for worms and ringworm and a bacterial infection. Fortunately, JMM and I are quite experienced at getting medication into cats. Now for the good part: They are darling and cute and I can waste more time watching them than even on the Internet.  Our two older cats were not pleased but have more or less adjusted. 

We have had the house painted. It looks so nice!  I found the painters using Angie's List and they really did a good job at a reasonable price.  They next big project is having the water well put in. 

My healthy habits campaign is going well with the exception of the exercise portion.  Healthy breakfast, healthy snack, healthy soup or salad for lunch, water every day. 

My makeover for the guest bedroom is coming along. I am making a new quilt and pillow shams for the bed. The pattern is easy but it is queen-sized so it requires 56 blocks and will therefore take some time.  I still haven't been able to wrangle JMM into making the prints of the Italian doorways but maybe soon....

I have made the reservations for our trip to Yosemite next spring.  I think it will be wonderful.  

Since I had such good luck with my Soup Project last year where I learned to make one new soup each month, I have decided to do a Muffin Project where I learn to make one new muffin recipe each month. I got some muffin cookbooks from the library and picked out 12 mostly healthy muffin recipes. August will be Cranberry-Pecan muffins. I'll post the results and if they are good, I'll post the recipe. 

Lots of good reading. I seem to be in a History pattern: An Army at Last Light by Rick Atkinson and The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin are in progress. I finished Galveston and the Civil War by James M. Schmidt. What a pleasure it is to have time to read!

All is so very well here at OakMeadows. Lots of love and pleasant things to do in beautiful surroundings. Life is excellent.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Galveston and the Civil War by James M. Schmidt

Galveston and the Civil War by James M. Schmidt 

I certainly learned a lot about the history of the city where I was born and grew up.  It is rather embarrassing that I had given virtually no thought to the fact that Galveston was a prominent slave market.  What little I thought about slavery, I thought that it was of little importance in Texas.  But that was far from the case. Slavery was a major factor in the economy of Texas, both as a market for the buying and selling of slaves and as the producers of the export products of Texas, namely cotton.  As the Civil War approached and began, much discussion was given to whether Texas should join the Confederacy or simply leave the Union and revert to its prior state as an independent republic. And slavery would continue on either path.  The citizens of Galveston voted in a referendum overwhelmingly to leave the Union and thereby assure themselves of the continuation of slavery. 

Galveston fell to the Union in 1862 but was recaptured by the Confederates on New Years Day, 1863 and remained so for the rest of the war. As the war progressed, first New Orleans fell to the Union and then Mobile, Alabama fell, leaving Galveston the only major port on the Gulf Coast remaining in Confederate hands.  Galveston was a major center of blockade running until the very end of the war.  

Food and medical supplies became more and more scarce for both soldiers and civilians as the war dragged on. To make matters infinitely worse in the summer and autumn of 1863, Galveston was hit by one of its periodic epidemics of yellow fever. 

The war finally ended and on June 19th the slaves were formally emancipated.  Juneteenth is still celebrated by African-Americans in Texas.  The re-building of Galveston began immediately. 

I enjoyed this book because it gave me information on a subject that I really had given very little thought to about my hometown.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Quilts and Quilting

One of my earliest childhood memories is of playing under the quilting frame as my mother quilted.  I still have a quilt that she made using a WW II wool Army blanket as batting.  However, I didn't start quilting on my own until I was in my 30s and took a class at The Quilt Patch in Houston where Sarah Minor taught us how to plan and cut and piece the quilt top and how to put it all together and finally how to properly quilt. In that class, everything was done by hand and believe it or not, it was before cutting boards and rotary cutters.  Now I'd be lost without my cutting board and rotary cutter and all my piecing is done on the sewing machine.

I was looking back on some of my quilts and decided to share. So here are some of my bits and pieces.

This was a Christmas present for my dear Sister-in-law.

This was made from scraps of previous quilts.

This one I made up and called it Jewels.

This is a baby quilt that is unfinished in this photo but I have now finished it.
This one is called Jacob's Ladder. This is the third one I have made of this pattern.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cooking Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup
2 cups dried black beans (soak overnight, rinse, and drain)
1/2 lb. Canadian Bacon chopped in 1/2 in pieces (this can be omitted for vegetarians)
3 cups water
3 cups beef or vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery tops
2 small leeks chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2-3 dashes of Tabasco 
In a large pot, place 3 cups water, 3 cups broth, presoaked/drained/rinsed black beans, and Canadian bacon pieces. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for about 3 hours. 
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat and add onion, carrot, celery tops, and leeks.  Cover and cook about 10 minutes until onions are translucent.
Stir the vegetables into the soup.  Add tomato, garlic, all the spices, bay leaf and Tabasco. 
Cover the pot and continue to simmer until beans are soft-about 2 more hours.  Stir frequently.
When done, (remove the bay leaf) you can mash the beans with a wooden spoon against the side of the pot or use a food processor for a portion of the 
soup to get a nice soupy consistency.  

I like to sprinkle cheese on the top just before serving.  Jalapeno cornbread makes a perfect accompaniment to this soup.

Meditation July 5

 It is not what to do, but how much love we put into the doing.  We can do not great things, only small things with great love. 

Mother Teresa

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Poetry July 4

What Makes the Grizzlies Dance  by Sandra Alcosser

June and finally the snowpeas
sweeten in the Mission Valley. 
High behind the numinous meadows
lady bugs swarm, like huge
lacquered fans from Hong Kong,
like the serrated skirts
of blown poppies,
whole mountains turn red. 
And in the blue penstemon
grizzly bears swirl
as they gaily bat the snaps
of color against their ragged mouths. 
Have you never wanted to spin like that
on hairy leathered feet
amid the swelling berries
as you tasted a language
of early summer?  Shaping
the lazy operatic vowels,
cap racking the hard-shelled
consonants like speckled
insects between your teeth,
have you never wanted 
to waltz the hills
like a beast?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tiger Swallowtail

We have had several of these this year. So lovely.

I am not certain but I think these are the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails rather than the Western. I am on the Texas Gulf Coast.
This is the caterpillar:
This is not my photo; it is from Google Images.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Kitten Update

Animals that come from shelters frequently come with viral infections. So although I was hopeful our two little bits of purring fur would be spared, I was not surprised when Henry stopped eating Friday.  We took him to the animal hospital Saturday and sure enough, he was dehydrated. They ran fluids under the skin and encouraged him to eat. They kept him at the clinic so that our other cats wouldn't be exposed. But as of this morning, he is still not eating.  They were going to feed him via a tube. I don't know if poor Henry is going to make it or not.  
The other kitten, Duffy, had to go to the vet today because he has some drainage from his nose and left eye. He had 3 kinds of parasites, a viral infection, and a secondary bacterial infection. So he has been de-wormed and we have 2 medications to give him.  He is a lot stronger than Henry so I expect he will recover.  My worry is that the two older cats have been exposed to the viral infections.  We shall see.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shrimp Jambalaya

This is my favorite way to serve shrimp. I make it about once a month.

Shrimp Jambalaya 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 onion, chopped fine
1 rib celery, chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, chopped fine
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups long grain white rice
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice
1 can (2 cups) chicken broth
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley 

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the Andouille and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Transfer the sausage to a paper towel lined late, leaving the fat in the pot. 

Add the onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper to the fat in the pot and return to medium heat.  Cook, scrapping up any browned bits, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. 

Stir in the rice, salt, and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, clam juice, broth, sausage, and shrimp. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Stir in parsley just before serving.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Meditation July 4

The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty. 
James Madison

Friday, July 18, 2014

Saturday Poetry

Glory Monster  by Sandra Alcosser

Tipped goblets, the blue herons
flap across the glassy pond. 
Two then four, they chase each other,
then stop at the penciled shoreline
to wrap their necks together. 

How like you, Iris, twisting
your green stems in the grasses. 
Heron flowers, humid and patient as fists
that spring to flying buttresses,
stained cathedral naves. 

if I were to make a monster, Iris,
to chase me, to suffocate in its bloom,
it would be you. Here comes Iris
marching across the pasture, waving
her rapier skirt, twirling

her caterpillar furs. Oh sing
of the brevity of life 
and the ephemeral nature of pleasure,
erotic and funereal anguish, 
dark rivered nectar. 

Once I lay by a bed of Iris
and once by my dying father
and each time I pressed my face
against the damp
and shriveling flesh. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Goals For Next Week

1. Spiritual
     Daily meditation
     Daily Bible reading

2. Physical 
     Exercise 12 minutes 6 days

     Healthy breakfast and snack

3. Quilting
     Bind edges of quilt

4. Reading
     The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson
     Three Dog Life by Anita Thomas
     Galveston and the Civil War by James M. Schmidt (I am a native Galvestonian and this book is giving me a perspective on the history of my hometown of which I had no idea.)
     Audio Book: John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger. 

5. Cooking
     Shrimp Risotto 
     Chicken Gumbo
     Corned Beef Hash
     Bake German Chocolate Cake for Paul's birthday party

6. Home
     Take care of kittens!

7. Personal
     Make at least one pillow case
     Call church about immigrant children assistance


My poor old cats, Bandit aged 12 and the head cat and Misty aged 10 and paranoid, have had their peaceful lives invaded and upended by two tiny black kittens.  They are adorable as only kittens can be, playing and napping and eating kitten chow and pooping in the litter box.  Bandit is certain that there has been some dreadful mistake and Misty is sure they are zombie invaders so she has not come down from the attic. I suppose I should tell her that eventually they will be able to get to the attic too. The kittens are healthy and have had their baby shots and will be neutered in due time. In the meanwhile we are enjoying their sweet antics. They are both black males but that is where the similarity ends. Duffy is a week older and much more active; I've started calling him my "bullet cat" because he moves so fast. He is very loving and literally bounds up into my lap purring and rubbing. He loves to ride with me on my electric scooter. The other kitten, Prince Henry, is smaller and quieter. He loves to be on JMM's lap being gently stroked. 
It never fails to amaze me how much these little creatures fill my heart with love and happiness. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

What's Blooming around OakMeadows

It is HOT! HOT! HOT! But there are several things that are blooming.

First the crepe myrtles are at their best around the 4th of July. Love 'em!! And you can see that big old Texas blue sky with white puffy clouds.

Next we have the clematis.  We planted these because the Gulf Fritillary butterflies love them.  I think they have the most interesting blooms.

Finally, we have Gomphrena.  This is the first year we have had this heat loving prolific bloomer.

And I can't leave out the magnificent magnolia with its heavenly scent.

What's blooming around you?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff (Slow Cooker)
1 ½ pounds beef stew meat, cut into ¾ inch cubes
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
½ cup sliced green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cups beef broth
1/3 cup dry sherry 
1 8 ounce carton dairy sour cream
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup water 
 Hot cooked noodles
    1.     In a large skillet brown beef in hot oil.  Drain off fat. 
2.     In a 3 ½ quart crockery cooker combine beef, mushrooms, onions, garlic, oregano, salt, thyme, pepper, and bay leaf.  Pour beef broth and sherry over all. 
3.     Cover; cook on low heat setting for 8 to 10 hour or on high heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.  Discard bay leaf. 
4.     If using low heat setting, turn to high heat setting.  Mix together sour cream, flour, and water.  Stir about 1 cup of the hot liquid into sour cream mixture.  Return all to cooker; stir to combine.  Cover and cook on high heat setting for 30 minutes or until thickened. 
5.     Serve over hot cooked noodles.  Serves 6.

Meditation July 3

It Is the preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else that prevents us from living freely and nobly. 

Bertrand Russell

Friday, July 11, 2014

Saturday Poetry July 2

When Death Comes
By Mary Oliver

When death comes
like a hungry bear in
When death comes and
   takes all the bright coins
   from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the
   purse shut;

when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the
   shoulder blades,

I want to step through the
   door full of curiosity,
what is it going to be like,
   that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon
as a brotherhood and a
and I look upon time as no
   more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as
   another possibility,

and I think of each life as a 
  flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as
and each name a
   comfortable music in the

tending, as all music does,
   toward silence,

and each body a lion of
   courage, and something
   precious to the earth.  

When it's over, I want to
   say: all my life
I was a bride married to
I was the bridegroom,
   taking the world into my

When its's over, I don't want to
if I have made of my life
   something particular, and
I don't want to find myself
   sighing and frightened,
   or full of argument. 

I don't want to end up
   simply visiting this

A Rant

I have been hearing about the suspected effects of the nicotinamide pesticides on the bee populations for about a year now and their deadly effect has become increasingly clear. It is only within the past month that it I have become aware that these pesticides are killing the birds that either drink water polluted with the stuff or eat insects carrying it in their bodies. 

We have evolved on this planet in exquisite balance with everything in, on, and around it.  There is nothing superfluous, nothing extra, nothing not needed.  We are part and parcel of it. Yet within the past blink of an evolutionary eye, our species is determinedly destroying the one known place in the universe that he is perfectly evolved to inhabit. 

My frustration grows with the knowledge that we will not stop until we are stopped. 


 1. Spiritual
     Daily meditation
     Daily reading

2. Physical 
     Exercise 12 minutes 6 days
     Healthy breakfast and snack

3. Quilting
     Finish borders and start binding4. Reading

4. Reading
     The Guns of August by Rick Atkinson
     Real Food by Nina Planck
     The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan
5. Cooking
     Fruited chicken salad
     Fish chowder
     Slow Cooker Beef Stew

6. Home
     Door prints
     Start looking for linens

7. Personal
     Macy's -- wristlet

So how did I do last week:
Goals for the week ending July 11, 2014

1. Spiritual
     Daily Bible Reading--done.
     ABF/Church--not done.
2. Physical
     Exercise 5 days 12 minutes--not done.
    Healthy Breakfast & Snack--done 5 days. 

3. Quilting
     Borders--finished 3 of the 4 borders.

4. Reading
     The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson. -- in progress.
     Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. Audio CDs. -- Finished. Excellent
     A Rather Lovely Inheritance by C.A. Belmond.

5. Cooking
     Oven Baked Fish, Oven Roasted Carrots/thyme, Cabbage--done.
     Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup--done.
     Steak, GMP, Green beans--done but had sausage instead of steak.

6. Home
     Print Rome door photos--not done. Must nag JMM.
     House painter - decide which and sign contract--done. Painting to commence 7/28/2014.

7. Personal
     Make Yosemite reservations--done. I am going to enjoy this soooo much.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

This is truly an unusual story told by a master story teller. Ursula Todd is born on a snowy night in February, 1910. Not just once but over and over again as she dies time and again and is reborn, always on the same snowy night to the same loving family. She has an inkling, just a vague awareness that she has been at certain places and had certain experiences before.  Each time she lives a slightly different life. The characters are complex and completely drawn and each time we learn more about them. I listened to this on audio CDs while driving and when I got home, I just sat in the car to finish listening to the CD, other times I listened to it half the night because I just wanted to listen to just one more know how that goes... Anyway, don't miss this really excellent story. 

Fat Chance by Robert Lustig

Fat Chance by Robert Lustig

In all honesty, I skimmed parts of this book because the author gave more detailed information than I really was interested in.  That said, it was a really good book. 
Salient points made include:

1. Weight gain/loss is much more complicated than the usual gluttony/sloth blame game. 

2. Eat less sugar, especially HFCS, and more fiber. 

3. Eat real food.

4. Exercise. 

Nothing that we didn't already suspect. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Around OakMeadows


Around Oak Meadows

It has been busy around OakMeadows.  We are making some long desired home improvements and are getting estimates on them. First, we are having the exterior of the house painted. This is the first time we have paid to have someone paint our house but this is a two story house and I don't want JMM up on ladders. Surprisingly, he agrees. We have one more contractor coming tomorrow to give us an estimate then we can get that out of the way. The next project is having our own water well installed.  And that must be done before we can have the irrigation system installed. We have selected the company for the water well but are in the process of getting estimates for the irrigation system. And finally, we are going to combine the shed for the water well pump with the shed that JMM has wanted for the mower, generator, and other equipment he has. (Yea!! Then I can clean out the garage!!)  Anyway, it has been interesting getting ready for all this. 

I've been on an improve my healthy living habits campaign. I've started with three items: A healthy breakfast and morning snack, 12 minutes on the exercise bike 6 days a week, and 500 ml of water each day.   So far the breakfast and snack and the water are going very well. The exercise, not so well. 

My makeover for the guest bedroom is coming along. The chair and the bedside table were finally delivered.  And I have decided to make prints of the pictures of doorways that JMM took in Rome in 2001 and frame them to hang on the wall behind the bed.  Now I just have to nag him into actually making the prints.  Still to be done is new linens and bedding for them room. 

All the baby swallows are out of the nests. We had a total of 18 baby swallows this year, losing only 1 baby that I know of.  They are all flying well and feeding themselves on our plentiful supply of mosquitoes and other insects. They all still swoop in and around the porch columns and chatter among themselves on the porch.  We had to wait until all the babies were out of the nests before we could begin the house painting. 

Slow progress on planning our spring trip to Yosemite.  We are now on Yosemite Trip Plan 3.0.  We've finally got dates that will work for everyone and that took us through 1.0 and 2.0.  Activities for everyone will take through 3.99.  JMM wants to climb Half Dome with TSM but I have my doubts. Fortunately, I have a sensible son-in-law who will keep me company while the adventurers blister their feet on a 13 hour hike/climb. 

Lots of good reading and quilting. I went to the quilt shop to get a new marking pen to mark the pattern of my current quilt. Well, I had barely got in the door when fabric for my next quilt was throwing itself at me.  I got out for under $100 which is probably a first.  More blues, yellows, and cream colors. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Green Lynx Spider

Look carefully to see it on the rose.  I have never seen a green spider before.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Night Chit Chat

  • Watching? The Constant Gardener. It is based on a John LeCarre novel and as usual I am having difficulty following it. 

  • Reading?  The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson.  World War II from D-Day through the end of the war. Beyond excellent!!

  • Listening to?  Life after Life by Kate Atkinson on audio CD. Very good, very different. 

  • Cooking/Baking? Not cooking today but will be making Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup tomorrow. 

  • Enjoyed over the last week?  I am redoing my guest bedroom and I found a nice chair and bedside table on sale. 

  • Thankful for?  The wonderful rain we received yesterday. Lovely. 

  • Happy you accomplished this week?  I finished quilting the nine blocks on the baby quilt I am working on. 

  • Thinking about financially?  Thankful. 

Best Bran Muffins

Best Bran Muffins

2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil 
½ cup honey
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups wheat  bran
1 cup raisins, blueberries, or raspberries (You can also add chopped pecans or walnuts; just keep the total additions to 1 cup.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Combine buttermilk, egg, oil, and honey.

Stir together flour, bran, raisins, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to liquid ingredients. 

Spray muffin pans with Pam or use paper muffin liners and spoon into 18 muffin cups.  Bake 21 minutes minutes.

Meditation July 2

It has been said that "the truth will make men free."  The truth alone has never made anyone free. It is only doubt which will bring mental emancipation. 
Anton Szander McVey

Friday, July 4, 2014

Saturday Poetry July 1

At the Edge of the Ocean
By Mary Oliver

I have heard this music
saith the body.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Goals for Next Week


Goals for the week ending July 11, 2014

1. Spiritual
     Daily Bible Reading
2. Physical 
     Exercise 5 days 12 minutes
     Healthy Breakfast & Snack

3. Quilting

4. Reading
     The Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson. 
     Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. Audio CDs. 
     A Rather Lovely Inheritance by C.A. Belmond. 

5. Cooking
     Oven Baked Fish, Oven Roasted Carrots/thyme, Cabbage
     Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
     Steak, GMP, Green beans

6. Home
     Print Rome door photos
     House painter - decide which and sign contract

7. Personal
     Make Yosemite reservations