Friday, January 31, 2014

Memories: Observing

One of my favorite things to do when I was growing up was to be very still and quiet and just observe things. 

Our house had a lot next door which was vacant until I was in high school. During the summers the lot was covered with morning glories. I loved to go in the cool mornings to the middle of the lot and sit very still and watch the bees and bumblebees going from flower to flower. It never occurred to me to be frightened of the bees and bumblebees. They were obviously too busy to be interested in me. Occasionally I would see a little green grass snake but it was always gone too quickly for observation.  There were lots of grasshoppers too but they didn't hold my interest like the bees did. We had a big honeysuckle vine on the back fence and there were lots of bees there too but only sitting right among the morning glories could I really watch and be part of their world. 
There must have been ants in that sandy soil but I don't remember them. 

Another thing I loved to observe was clouds. On hot summer afternoons before air conditioning, I would take a quilt out under the big tallow tree at the back of the house. I would take a couple of books too but what I would actually do is lay on my back and look up through the leaves and watch the clouds. 

I still love to watch the bees on my salvia plants and I still love to look up through the big old oak trees and watch the clouds. Both make me feel part of real things. 

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, February 8, 2014

1.  Quilting
     Table runner Block #1
2.  Reading
     Empire  of Liberty by Gordon S. Wood.
     Making Home by Sharon Astyk
     Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham
     The Leafcutter Ants by Bert Holldobler
 3.  Cooking
      Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
      BBQ chicken thighs, Beans, Corn
      More Casserole
4.  Painting Master Bedroom Project
      Get paint, pan, roller, and floor cover
     Have Adrian and Daniel move dresser away from the wall
5.  Plan birding trip 
6.   Make Budget for February (better late than never...)


Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather

The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather

Chicago Times food writer Robin Mather loses her job and her husband decides to end their marriage all within one week.  She decides to live in her 635 square foot cabin at a lake in Michigan.  Her income is slashed and she can only spend $40 per week on food.  How she eats locally and well on $40 per week is the main subject of the book. She does this by buying fruits & vegetables seasonally and preserving them. She raises chickens and barters and trades with local producers. In addition to the main story, there is the story of learning to anticipate needs. How will she maintain a warm home during the long, cold Michigan winter? How will her chickens fare during the winter? It is a very pleasing book as she gains confidence and happiness. There are many good recipes and canning and preserving instructions. All in all, a good read. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

February Menu


1. Bacon sandwiches, oven fries. 
2. Schlotzsky's   
3. Fish, carrots, corn
4. BBQ chicken thighs, beans, corn
5. More Casserole
6. Leftovers
7. Olive Garden
8. Bacon sandwiches, oven fries
9. Schlotzsky's 
10. Fish, carrots, corn
11. Slow cooker Chicken with White Wine, Tarragon, & Cream p. 80
12. HB pie
13. Leftovers. 
14. Texas Roadhouse
15. Bacon sandwiches, oven fries
16. Schlotzsky's 
17. Fish, carrots, corn
18. Pizza
19. Steak, GMP, Peas
20. Leftovers
21. Gringo's
22. Bacon sandwiches, oven fries
23. Schlotzsky's 
24. Fish, carrots, corn
25. Corned beef hash, cream style corn
26. Spaghetti & Meatballs
27. Leftovers
28. Chipotle

Friday, January 24, 2014

Around OakMeadows

Winter is definitely here--31 on the porch. The wind was just ferocious last night as the cold front moved through. We are snug and warm inside. My cat, Bandit, pitched a fit to go outside last night but immediately changed his mind when he got into the cold, wind, and rain and decided that life on the electric blanket was a better choice. 

We had our daughter's dog, Daisy, with us last week. She is an aged cocker spaniel--deaf and arthritic-- but such a sweetheart! Loves to go in the car anywhere, anytime, loves to play ball, and loves to eat anything and everything. 
We had nice weather so walking her was not a problem.  She is back at her real home but I am sure she knows she is loved here too. 

My Invacare scooter which I refer to as My Precious has been malfunctioning recently so I had the repairman come out and take it into the scooter ICU. It is 10 years old and rather battered up with use but it is the best scooter ever and I don't think you can even buy one like it anymore. Always expecting things to take longer and cost more than estimated, I settled in to be without it for a couple of weeks. But to my pleasant amazement, they brought it back completely fixed in only 5 days. The total cost was $225 and well worth the money to have My Precious back and functional. 

I had to have a breast ultrasound Thursday because I have a fibrocystic area in my right breast. I have had it for about 12 years. It isn't my favorite way to spend an afternoon but it is necessary since my father's mother died of breast cancer. I was aggravated by having to pay $310 because we have not met our insurance yearly deductible.  

Quilting has taken a back seat this week but I did manage to get the table runner layered and ready to pin and baste. Slooooowly she goes.....

Good reading this week: 

Empire of Liberty by Gordon S. Wood has been such an enlightening book for me. I always supposed that the Founding Fathers just all got together and worked out the best way to set up and govern the newly formed nation.  Not exactly. They were as fractious as politicians are today. I knew about the Hamilton - Jefferson divide but I didn't know how uncertain the election of 1800 was, I didn't know how much Jefferson disliked Chief Justice John Marshall, and 
I didn't know how contentious setting up the federal and state judiciaries was. 

Countdown by Alan Weisman was another excellent book on the overpopulation problem. All our efforts at conservation and climate change will be useless unless population is lowered. Every 4 1/2 days we add another 1 million people on the planet. 

I made one new recipe last week, the Slow Cooker Old-Fashioned Beef and Noodle Soup. It was delicious. Next time I make it, I will use about half the amount of noodles called for though. 

JMM has one more week at work before he retires. I want him to just enjoy having time to putter around. He is planning to work 2 days a week to bring in some extra cash so that he won't have to dip into his 403b funds until he is 72. We shall see.  Next week he has his retirement party and another 2 days he is being taken out to lunch. I hope he enjoys his retirement as much as I love mine. 

Lots of birds at the feeders. Goldfinches, titmouse, cardinals, bluejays, doves.  Raccoons and squirrels. Haven't seen the possum or armadillo lately. Maybe they hibernate, don't know. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Slow Cooker Old-Fashioned Beef and Noodle Soup

Old-Fashioned Beef and Noodle Soup

2 onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
6 cups beef broth
1/2 pound sliced baby Bella mushrooms
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 3/4 inch 
2 ribs celery, chopped medium
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 pound beef blade steak
Salt and pepper
3 ounces wide egg noodles (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1. Microwave onions, garlic, tomato paste, oil, and thyme in a bowl, stirring occasionally until onions are softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. 

2. Stir broth, mushrooms, carrots, celery, soy sauce, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high. 

3. Transfer beef to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces. Let soup settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon. Discard bay leaves.  Cook egg noodles in salted boiling water until tender, then drain. Stir cooked noodles and shredded beef into soup and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, January 25, 2014

1.  Quilting
     Get table runner ready to quilt
2.  Reading
     Empire  of Liberty by Gordon S. Wood.
     Countdown by Alan Weismann 
3.  Cooking
     Slow Cooker Old-Fashioned Beef & Noodle Soup
4.   Breast Ultrasound
5.  Exercise 6 times
6.  Get paint, pan, & roller for painting master bedroom
7.  Weight Watchers
8.  Plan birding trip 
9.  Make Budget for February


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Don't Drink the Water

Don't Drink the Water

Especially if you are in West Virginia.  We have been assured that all the toxic waste water from fracking can be safely stored and there is no cause for concern. Only it wasn't and now you can't drink the water in a 9 county area in West Virginia. Why are we so passive and let these fracking companies destroy our ground water??Because we need oil for our Humvees to pollute the air and to make plastic to pollute the oceans. 

Now that the water has been polluted in WV, how long will it be before it is "cleaned up" and certified as drinkable again. And will it really be drinkable?  The oil companies are doing this all over this nation and our Congress, having been bought by the oil companies, does nothing, our agencies charged with protecting our environment have been emasculated by budget cuts. And the band plays on. 

I just came from a pleasant family gathering and not one person there has any knowledge of or interest in the environmental devastation that is going on. And my family is just your garden variety, average American family.  It isn't just that they don't care, it really just isn't even on their radar.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Around Oak Meadows

 Birds around OakMeadows--It was unusually cold last week so we really kept the feeders stocked. We were rewarded with lots of feathered beauties. 
     Ruby-crowned kinglet
     Savannah sparrows
     Collared doves
At the pond we spotted
     Great blue heron
     Great egret
Joe says that he saw a flock of 70+ trumpeter swans flying directly over the property. At one time they did winter down here but are not common. Perhaps last week's polar vortex blew them down here. He won't let me add them to the OakMeadows list because he is unsure. 

Joe is counting days to retirement--18 days to go.  He says as the time gets shorter, it is harder and harder to go in each morning.  He has worked so hard all his life that I hope he has years and years of happy retirement.  He had his 67th birthday Friday.  I baked a German Sweet Chocolate cake for him. We had Sunday lunch at The Olive Garden with family and friends totaling 18. It was so much fun. 

Quilting project is a table runner for the dining room. I have the top pieced.  This week I want to get the backing and batting cut and get it layered, pinned, and basted.  When I get it finished I want to get some new candles and holders to put on the runner. 

Lots of good books in progress
     Empire of Liberty by Gordon S. Wood
     Countdown by Alan Weisman
     Mrs. Tim Christie by D.E.Stevenson
     Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn by John Maxwell

Last week was so cold that soup was a necessity. I made Turkey and Wild Rice in the Slow Cooker.  Oh Lordy, was it ever good. JMM brought home a loaf of sourdough bread which we toasted and buttered.  Oh so good. 

We are dog-sitting the world's best dog, sweet Daisy, while her companion people are off to London and then to Spain.  Fortunately, it is not raining so walking her hasn't been a problem; I simply cannot manage the scooter, the dog, and an umbrella, not to mention closing the door after we go out.  Anyway fingers are crossed for continued sunny weather. 

We had a load of mulch delivered for the flower beds and around the trees. Joe is taking a few wheelbarrows to the beds each day so he won't hurt his back.  Right now with everything killed back by the freezing weather so it is hard to picture how beautiful and green everything will be. In the meantime, mulch, mulch, and more mulch. 


Monday, January 13, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Bouillabaisse


Slow Cooker Chicken Bouillabaisse

This is another recipe from Slow Cooker Revolution by The Editors of America's Test Kitchen. 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
1 small fennel bulb (about 8 oz.), tops discarded, halved, cored, and sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup pastis, Pernod, or ouzo
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups low sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed 
12 oz. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 (3 inch) strip of orange zest
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or parsley

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat until shimmering.  Add leek, fennel, garlic, tomato paste, saffron, and cayenne and cook until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in pastis and wine, scrapping up any browned bits. Whisk in 1 cup broth, smoothing out any lumps; transfer to slow cooker. 

2. Microwave potatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon oil in covered bowl, stirring occasionally, until nearly tender, about 3 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. Stir in remaining 3 cups broth, tomatoes, and orange zest. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours on low.  

3. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-sized pieces, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard orange zest. 

4. Stir in shredded chicken and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. (Adjust stew consistency with additional hot broth as needed.) stir in tarragon, season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Birding Galveston Island

I should have had these pictures up a month ago. But life, as it so often does, intervened.


The 9-Patch Quilt

I finished this one 2 weeks ago but we have had internet problems and couldn't upload any pictures. It was rather overcast the day the picture was taken so it looks a bit darker than it actually is.

Working on a table runner now.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Around OakMeadows

Around OakMeadows

JMM is counting down the days until retirement. 25 days to go. He has worked at one job or another since he was in junior high school. He worked and went to school for years.  Honestly, he is about the hardest working person I've ever known.  He is looking forward to having time to putter around on his various projects. It will take some adjusting but it is time for him to have time to just enjoy the little, quiet things in life. We were talking the other evening how neither of our fathers ever had any time to enjoy retirement. My father had a stroke while working and never recovered completely from it. JMM's father worked until his COPD got so bad that he had to stop working and then his life was one continuous struggle to just breathe. I want JMM to have many years of a happy retirement. 

We've had a couple of days of unusually cold weather--cold by Houston standards--in the low 20's at night. So we've been extra attentive to keeping the bird feeders full and water in the birdbath. The goldfinches arrived just after Christmas--about 20 of them. We have bluejays too. The first 7-8 years we were here, there were no bluejays because the West Nile virus had wiped them out. I suppose these that we are seeing now have some kind of immunity to WNV. 

I decided to make a table runner for the dining room table. I had plenty of fabric left from making my Jewels quilt so I am making a runner of nine-patches. Everything is cut out and ready to put together. Maybe tomorrow since I'm not planning on going anywhere.  I will post a picture when it is done. I want to get some new candle holders and candles to spiff things up. 

Speaking of spiffing things up, I am planning to paint the master bedroom. Not this week but I should be able to get started on it next week. I will do my usual one wall at a time. Then the guest room will be my big project for the rest of the year. So much to do....

The cold weather makes me want comfort food. So tomorrow is soup day and Wednesday I will make meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas. Not exactly low carb. 
Friday I am making JMM's birthday cake--German Sweet Chocolate cake with Coconut-Pecan frosting. That should send me back to Weight Watchers!!

TSMR & JCR are leaving for London and Spain late Thursday. I am picking up Daisy and keeping her while they are away.  I don't mind taking her out on the leash except when it is raining so I am keeping my fingers crossed for a dry spell. 

Reading several good books:
   Still reading Empire of Liberty by Gordon S. Wood. So interesting. So long!
   Countdown by Alan Weisman. Overpopulation. 
   Mrs. Tim Christie by D.E.Stevenson. Sweet English fiction. 
   Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn by John Maxwell. Motivational. (Lord knows I need motivating.)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, January 18, 2014

1.  Quilting
     Piece table runner--done.  Next to layer the backing, batting, & top and baste it together. 
2.  Reading
     Empire of Liberty by Gordon S. Wood.--in progress. 
     Countdown by Alan Weismann -- in progress. 
3.  Cooking
     Turkey and Wild Rice Soup--done. It was excellent. 
4.  Mammogram --done. Thank goodness!
5.  JMM eye exam --done. He did not need new lenses. 
6.  Get paint, pan, and roller for painting master bedroom--not done due to sheer laziness. 
7.  Pick up Daisy--done. Dear Daisy will be with us for 10 days. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

This is another soup recipe from Slow Cooker Revolution by the Editors of America's Test Kitchen. So good on a cold day!

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

2 onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoonful fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled & sliced ¼ inch thick
2 celery ribs, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 bay leaves
2 bone-in turkey thighs, skin removed (about 2 pounds)
1 cup long grain & wild rice blend
2 Tablespoons fresh minced parsley
   Salt and pepper 

  1.  Microwave onions, garlic, tomato paste, and thyme in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Stir broth, carrots, celery, and bay leaves into slow cooker.  Season turkey with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until turkey is tender 6 to 8 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.
  3. Transfer turkey to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-sized pieces, discarding the bones.  Let soup settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon.  Discard bay leaves.  Stir in rice, cover, and cook on high until rice is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  4. Stir in shredded turkey and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes.  Stir in parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Marijuana for all in Colorado

I've never smoked it or ingested it in any way so I am not speaking from experience. I don't understand the allure of smoking anything, cigarettes or pot. I don't like being around people in altered mental states from too much alcohol so I can't think I would find people under the influence of marijuana any more agreeable. I anticipate headlines of the future announcing the negative health consequences of inhaling marijuana smoke to be as detrimental as that of cigarettes. 

But what about all the tax dollars that we will be collecting from the legal sale of it. Probably we will reap the same tax benefits that were touted from legalizing gambling. We were supposed to be able to pour money into education from the lottery. Well, we see how well that worked out with educational cuts everywhere.  I may be wrong but it seems to me that the same people who waste their money on cigarettes, booze, and lottery tickets will be the same ones who waste their time, money, and health on pot. I suppose there are always fools so don't expect a lot of sympathy from me when the ill effects are evidenced. 

One last question--does marijuana impair driving? If so are there breathalyzer tests for cannabis? 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Around OakMeadows

It has been a busy morning. As usual, on New Year's Day, I took down all the Christmas decorations and packed them in the plastic bins. Inevitably as soon as I get the bins stacked in the closet, I find something that should have gone in the bottom bin. I wonder what it will be this year??

JMM was so excited to see a Great Horned Owl in the big live oak tree very early this morning. Probably the owl was snacking on field mice during the night. I was very lax last year about keeping our OakMeadows bird list up to date. Hope to do better this year. 

I totaled up the December expenses and the only expense category that was over budget was Eating Out. Guilty. I do have an excuse-->My birthday at Goode Company Seafood was worth every penny. I am sure that Heaven will serve Goode Co. Seafood Gumbo. (Otherwise, I don't want to go...)

The Irish Chain quilt re-binding project is taking about 10X longer than I thought it would. But that is often the case with my projects: they cost more and take longer than I think they will. Friday I am going to Quilter's Emporium and see if they have any fabric for the baby quilt that I want to do next. If not, I will plunge back into my stash of squares that I have already cut out and make another scrap quilt. That reminds me, I was looking for my Simple Baby Quilts book and knew just where it was, only it wasn't there.  So over a period of a couple of weeks, I turned the house upside down looking for it. Found it. It was right on the shelf where it was supposed to be all along. Need new glasses I suppose. 

I made the best roast beef for dinner last night. I used my Le Creusset heavy Dutch oven and PW's recipe and it was wonderful. I roasted onions and carrots with it and poured the gravy over leftover mashed potatoes. Divine. Leftovers for dinner tonight. My next cooking project will be JMM's birthday cake--German Sweet Chocolate cake. I wonder how many GC cakes I have made over the 
years for JMM's and Paul's birthdays?? At least 50. 

I am reading Empire if Liberty by Gordon Wood. It is the second volume in the Oxford History of the United States and covers the period from the end of the Revolution to the War of 1812. I had no idea what a tumultuous period that 
was!! Very interesting how the Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans squared off on just how the American government was going to be put into effect. I am about 1/2 through it. Excellent!