Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Meditation

Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray, where nature heals and gives strength to body and soul alike. 

John Muir

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Worship of Nature by John Greenleaf Whittier

The harp at Nature's advent strung
   Has never ceased to play;
The song the stars of morning sung
   Has never died away. 

And prayer is made, and praise is given,
   By all things near and far,
The ocean looketh up to heaven,
   And mirrors every star. 

Its waves are kneeling on the strand,
   As kneels the human knee,
Their white locks bowing to the sand,
   The priesthood of the sea!

They pour their glittering treasures forth,
   Their gifts of pearl they bring,
And all the listening hills of earth
   Take up the song they sing.

The green earth sends its incense up
   From many a mountain shrine;
From folded leaf and dewy  cup
   She pours her sacred wine. 

The mists above the morning rills
   Rise white as wings of prayer;
The altar-curtains of the hills
   Are sunset's purple air. 

The winds of praise are loud
   Or low with sobs of pain,--
The thunder-organ of the cloud,
   The dropping tears of rain. 

With drooping heads and branches crossed
   The twilight forest grieves,
Or speaks with tongues of Pentecost
   From all its sunlit leaves. 

The blue sky is the temple's arch,
     It's transept earth and air. 
The music of its starry march 
   The chorus of a prayer. 

So Nature keeps the reverent frame
   With which her years began,
And all her signs and voices shame
   The prayer less heart of man. 

Goals for Next Week

     Daily Bible Reading

     Sit and Be Fit
     Healthy Lunch and Snack

     Block #12

     Wartime Britain by Juliette Gardiner
     Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith (I am reading this with the GoodReads History Group.)
     The Emerald Planet by David Beerling
     Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

     Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
     Tuna salad
     Oven BBQ Chicken, Beans, Cole Slaw
     Applesauce Raisin Spice Cake

     Installation of irrigation system

     50th Class Reunion planning meeting
     Houston Symphony

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy

Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy

1 (5 pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 ounces bacon (about 4 slices), minced
3 onions, minced
1 carrot, peeled and minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 1/2 cups Pinot Noir
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 bay leaves
2 cups frozen pearl onions
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and halved if small or quartered if large

1. Dry beef with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat, brown meat (half at a time) well on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. 

2. Cook bacon in skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Stir in onions, carrot, tomato paste, garlic, and thyme and cook until onions are softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in 1 1/4 cups wine, scraping up any brown bits and smoothing out any lumps; transfer to slow cooker. 

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

4. About 20 minutes before serving, bring frozen pearl onions, water, butter, and sugar to a boil in a 12 inch skillet.  Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until frozen onions are fully thawed and tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Uncover, bring to a boil, and cook until all liquid evaporates. Stir in mushrooms and cook until vegetables are glazed, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. 

Add remaining 1 1/4 cups wine to skillet and simmer until it is reduced by half, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon. Discard bay leaves. (Adjust stew consistency with additional hot broth as needed.)  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. 

February Meditation

Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate, sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth...home.

Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 Astronaut, 1971

The Rainy Day by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall;
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary. 

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past;
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary. 

Be still, sad heart, and stop repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall, 
Some days must be dark and dreary. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Around Oak Meadows

Around OakMeadows

We had a week of spring weather and it was lovely. Yesterday a cold front blew through and dropped temperatures down to near freezing. Once upon a time, I really loved cold weather but not so much now, in fact not at all. I now understand why people go to Tucson for the winter. Anyway, the temperature will be up to near 60 tomorrow so I can't really complain. (But I do anyway...)

We finished the well and the shed and have had the electrical lines installed. Now we are waiting for the irrigation system workmen to start work. 

We are watching David Attenborough's Life in the Undergrowth.  It is fantastic! I can't believe we have never seen it.  The camera work is incredible!

The goldfinches are cleaning out the thistle feeders as soon as Joe fills them up. The gluttonous blackbirds are scarfing down all the sunflower seed and the squirrels are fat  and sassy with all the peanuts. We found a large raccoon dead. He must have died of old-age or disease because he hadn't been torn up by the coyotes. 

The monster quilt is progressing s l o w l y. 10 blocks down--only 46 more to go. Ack!!

Lots of good reading! Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner is the best on the subject that I've ever read. The GoodReads History Group is doing a group read of Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith and it is good too. I just started The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah which is light historical fiction--good so far. 

Cooking: Shrimp Jambalaya, Chicken Parmigiana, and Veggie Soup. Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Lots of good eating. 

That's the news from OakMeadows where the people are all retired and the cats are all above average. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blueberry Bran Muffins

These are a staple at my house.

2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup honey
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup blueberries
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine buttermilk, egg, oil, and honey. Stir together flour, bran, baking powder and baking soda. Add to liquid ingredients.  Stir in blueberries.  Pour into oiled muffin tins. Makes about 18 medium sized muffins. Bake for 20 minutes.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Still, what I want most in this life
is to be willing
to be dazzled--
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world. 

Mary Oliver

Friday, February 13, 2015

(i carry your heart with me) by E.E. Cummings

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in 
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere 
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done 
by only me is your doing,my darling) 
                                                      i fear 
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want 
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true) 
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant 
and whatever a sun will always sing is you 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows 
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud 
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows 
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) 
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart 

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Goals for Next Week


     Sit and Be Fit
     Healthy Lunch and Snack

Quilting: Block # 10

     Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner
     Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith (GoodReads History Group Reading)
     Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith
     Map of Heaven by Eben Alexander

     Veggie Soup
     Shrimp Jambalaya
     Chicken Parmigiana 

     Work on cleaning out the garage a little bit each day
     Get estimate for interior painting

     Make airline and car rental reservations for Yosemite trip
     Have glasses repaired

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Memories: Ironing

It is hard to believe that at one time, almost everything had to be at least ironed, if not starched and ironed. There was no taking it out of the drier, giving it a shake, and hanging it up. No, taking the clothes down from the outside clothesline was just one step in the process of doing the wash. Sheets and towels came in off the and were folded and put away; I know many people ironed their sheets but we only ironed pillowcases and we didn't starch them as many did. 

 Pretty much everything that was worn, other than underwear, was starched and ironed. After washing and before hanging on the clothesline, the clothes were starched. There was the box of Faultless starch that was used to make the starch base, then depending on how stiff you wanted the article to be the base was diluted. What, you say, where is the spray can of starch?? Ah, my dear, there was a time even before spray starch, hard as it is to believe. Anyway, after the clothes were washed and starched and dried on the line, and brought in, it was time to start dinner and ironing would have to wait until Tuesday (because washing day was Monday, as everyone knew.) The damp clothes would be rolled up and put in the ice box to await ironing. 

 The next day, the ironing board would be set up near a window or in front of the fan if it was summer and the radio would be turned on to music or a soap opera and ironing would commence. If the clothes had dried out too much, there was the Coke bottle with a sprinkler head corked on the top and filled with water to dampen the clothes. Shirts and blouses, then skirts and petticoats, slacks and jeans, and last pillowcases and any crocheted doilies. It was a good days work and then it was time to make dinner. 

 No wonder our mothers told us to take care with our clothes!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

This recipe is adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution by America's Test Kitchen.  

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
3 carrots, chopped medium
2 celery ribs, chopped medium
1 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste 
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 cups wide egg noodles
1 cup frozen peas

Dry chicken with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in 12 inch skillet over medium heat until very hot. Brown chicken thighs well on both sides, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to plate. 

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat left in pan. Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, tomato paste, thyme, and red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat until onions are softened, 7-10 minutes. Stir in 1 cup chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits. Transfer to slow cooker. 

Stir in remaining 7 cups broth and bay leaves. Nestle browned chicken with any accumulated juices into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4-6 hours on low. Add peas 1 hour before the end of cooking time. 

Transfer chicken to cutting board and shred into bite sized pieces. Discard bay leaves.  
Add shredded chicken back into slow cooker. 

Cook noodles in boiling, salted water until tender. Place the noodles in individual bowls and ladle soup over them. I do not add the noodles to the soup pot because they absorb too much of the juice and become gummy. 

Season with salt and pepper as desired. 

Makes about 6 servings.  I usually freeze at least 2 servings.  
Instead of noodles you can cook rice and make a delicious Chicken and Rice Soup. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Goals for Next Week

     Daily Bible Reading

     Sit and Be Fit
     Healthy lunch and snack

Quilting: Block #12

     Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner
     Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith (for GoodReads History Group's group read.)
     The Emerald Planet by David Beerling
     Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

      Spaghetti and Meat sauce 
      Oven BBQ Chicken, Beans, Cole Slaw
      Steak, GMP, GB
      Tuna Salad
      Applesauce Raisin Spice Cake

     The irrigation system is being installed!

      Houston Symphony
      Dog sitting Daisy

Who Has Seen the Wind by Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.


When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty. 

John Muir, Travels in Alaska, 1915

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Winter in the Texas Hill Country

These were taken by JMM at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. He went to their yearly native tree and shrub sale.  The sale was very well attended and while he was able to get at least one of each of the trees and shrubs that he was looking for, they sold out quickly.  Fortunately he was able to get 3 small Anacua trees. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty 

I had a hard time getting started in this book. I listened to it on Audio CDs and had difficulty figuring out the way the story is arranged. I also didn't care for the reader's raspy voice at first but it really grew on me and by the end of the book, I couldn't imagine Madeline in any other voice.  

It is hard to believe that a book that deals with domestic violence could possibly have so much warmth and humor in it.  If nothing else came from it, I gained a new phrase for life's little moments: "Oh calamity!"

Jane and her son, Ziggy, move to the rather exclusive Pirriwee Peninsula where 5 year old starts kindergarten.  She meets other parents and becomes friends with Madeline and Celeste whose children are also starting kindergarten at Pirriwee Public.  While things on the surface are beautiful and perfect, there is the ugliness of violence under the surface affecting both children and adults.  But who and why?

Things come to a climax at the school's fund-raiser Trivia night. No spoilers but it is certainly a night to remember and a night best described by the phrase "Oh calamity!"

A very good read...or listen. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February Menu

February Menu

1. Soup (Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle)
2. Fish, Carrots/Thyme, Corn or Cabbage
3. Chicken-Rice Bake--done. 
4. Steak--done. 
5. Leftovers--done. 
6. Out
7. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries
8. Soup (Veggie)
9. Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Veggie Tray
10. KFC
11. Stew
12. Leftovers
13. Out
14. Hamburgers, Oven Fries
15. Soup (Potato-Leek)
16. Shrimp Jambalaya 
17. Chicken Parmigiana 
18. Cutlets, GMP, GB
19. Leftovers 
20. Out
21. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries
22. Soup (Slow Cooker Beef and Barley)
23. Fish Chowder
24. Oven BBQ Chicken, Beans, Cole Slaw
25. Spaghetti and Meatballs 
26. Leftovers 
27. Out
28. Hamburgers, Oven Fries