Thursday, October 31, 2013

Memory--Old Yeller

Memory--Old Yeller

In 1957, when I was 10 years old, my mother and I went to see the movie Old Yeller. It was supposed to be a movie for children. I was so happy to go to the movies for that was quite a treat and didn't happen often.  We had good seats in the center section, not quite half way back. We may have had a bag of popcorn and a small CocaCola in a cup from the vending machine, I'm not sure, but we probably did.

 I loved the movie up to the point where the family dog gets rabies and has to be killed. To say I was stunned is an understatement. To this day I remember how horrified I was. I cried all the way out of the movie, all the way home, and much of the afternoon. My poor mother would never have taken me if she had any idea how it would affect me. Slowly she was able to help me calm down and get over the shock but I have never been able to watch a movie or read a book with any type of animal cruelty involved. 

56 years later and I still remember it clearly. 

One Summer by Bill Bryson

I have long been a Bill Bryson fan. His books, In a Sunburned Country and A Short History of Nearly Everything, are among my all time favorites. His books are filled with interesting things and have grace and charm and wit.  So I eagerly awaited his latest book, One Summer, which is about the events of the summer of 1927. 

I couldn't imagine what would be so interesting about 1927 as to write a 500 page book but I was sure if anyone could do it, Bill Bryson could. 

Sure enough, there were a lot of interesting thing going on that summer:
     Charles Lindbergh and his flight to Paris
     Babe Ruth and the Yankees
     Calvin Coolidge (Who would have guessed how interesting he was!)
     The Great Mississippi flood (Never heard of it.)
     Sacco and Vanzetti and the anarchists
     Prohibition and the government allowing strychnine to be added to industrial alcohol resulting in thousands of deaths

Yes, it really was an interesting summer and BB lays it all out. Therein lie the two flaws in the book. First, it should have been a crisp 350 page book but when drawn out to 500 pages, is grows limp and tedious.  And limp and tedious are far from the grace and wit and charm of his previous books.  I found myself wanting to take scissors and nip out the repetitious tedium. 

It is worth reading because it was quite a summer and because BB does a good job bringing it to life but be prepared to do a fair amount of skimming. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Affordable Healthcare Act

We should have a single payer, universal healthcare system. 

The ACA makes money for those who lobby Congress and for the insurance companies. It is an inefficient, wasteful system that leaves many citizens still without access to healthcare. It should be thrown out and an efficient, single payer, universal system instituted. 

I refuse to discuss the failings of and the struggles of the HHS Secretary Sibelius and the Obama administration. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Applesauce Raisin Spice Cake

I haven't made one of these in a while but I think it's about time for one.

          Applesauce Raisin Spice Cake


1 ½ cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ¾ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup oil
1 ¾ cups applesauce
3 eggs
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9X13 inch pan with non-stick spray.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and spices into a large bowl.

Add applesauce, oil, and eggs beating at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Stir in raisins and nuts.

Turn into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Cool before frosting.


Cream Cheese Frosting 

½ cup butter
1 8 oz. cream cheese
1 lb. box powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
Have butter and cream cheese at room temperature and mix all together.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Saturday Poetry: Morning Glories by Mary Oliver

Morning Glories

Blue and dark-blue
     rose and deepest rose
          white and pink they

are everywhere in the diligent
     cornfield rising and swaying
          in their reliable

finery in the little
     fling of their bodies their 
          gear and tackle

all caught up in the cornstalks. 
     The reaper's story is the story
          of endless work of

work careful and heavy but the
     reaper cannot 
           separate them out there they

are in the story of his life
     bright random useless
     year after year

taken with the serious tons
     weeds without value humorous
          beautiful weeds. 

Mary Oliver


Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, November 2

     Finalize Fidelity allocations. Not done. 
     Block #20. Not quite finished. 
     Remove rose bush. Not done. 
     One Summer by Bill Bryson. Finished. 
     25 Ways to Win with People by John Maxwell. Finished. 
     Blue Iris by Mary Oliver. In progress. 
     What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz. Finished
     4 dinners. Done. 
     Dental-- Have 1st crown replaced & make appointment for 2nd crown. Done. 

Chicken & Snow Peas Stir Fry

This is so good and like all stir-fries, once you get everything chopped, it goes together very quickly. JMM and I will get two meals out of this easily.

               Chicken and Snow Peas

2 tsp. each soy sauce, corn starch, sherry, and water
1 pound chicken breasts, boned, skinned, and cut in bite sized pieces
3 Tablespoons Oil
3 cloves garlic minced
1 ½ teaspoonful Sesame Oil
1 can sliced water chestnuts or bamboo shoots, drain
5-6 carrots sliced diagonally
¼ lb. Snow peas

 Cooking Sauce for Chicken and Snow Peas:
Stir together ¾ c. water, 2 tablespoons sherry, 4 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil, and 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch.


 In a bowl, mix soy sauce, corn starch, sherry, and water. Mix well. Add chicken and garlic. Stir to coat all pieces of chicken. Refrigerate.

Place large pan over high heat. When hot add 2 tablespoons oil. Add chicken and stir fry until done. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add vegetables and stir fry about 5 minutes. Add water and cover for 3 minutes.

Add Cooking Sauce and chicken. Cook, stirring constantly until sauce thickens.


Serve over rice.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday Poetry

The plow of hate 

The plow of hate
the Earth. 

The shining blade 
engraves furrows soaked with tears, 
and tills clots of grudge,
and digs atrocious slashes of mourning, 
and ferrets out the roots of remote revenges, 
and rolls buried tragedies, 
and rediscovers ancient pits of death. 
With fanatical anger  
the plow of hate 
the ground of distant countries,  
and smashes remote regions, 
then it starts scratching 
the calm familiar valleys. 
Engraved, stunned,  
the wounded Earth
is waiting for a seed 
to make Peace, 

M. Ivana T. Bach

Friday, October 18, 2013

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, October 26

     Finalize Fidelity allocations
     Sign & notarize paperwork--done. 
     Block #19--done. 
     Remove rose bushes
     One Summer by Bill Bryson
     The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks (Audio CD)
     What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz
     4 dinners
     Apple-Pecan Muffins for freezer
     Oatmeal cookies
    Dental cleaning--done. 
Plan fall trip

Memory: The New House

The New House

My father was a Merchant Mariner who spent his working life at sea dreaming of retirement in the country. He bought property in the country near the small East Texas town of Etoile and planned a beautiful brick home surrounded by the piney woods. 
My mother grew up in abject poverty in the piney woods of East Texas and could not wait to leave for the city. She had no intention of ever returning. 
My father just knew that if he built the house, she would love it and be happy to move back. 
Long story, short-- He built the house and my mother wouldn't move. The house was sold to my Aunt Lillian and Uncle Marvin who lived in it happily until their deaths many years later. 
My mother and father stayed happily in their little house in Galveston until their deaths many years later. 

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips

We went to see this movie last weekend. It is based on the actual kidnapping of Captain Phillips from the Mersk Alabama by Somali pirates.  I wanted to see it because my father was a Merchant Mariner and had his Captain's license although he usually sailed as 1st Mate. My father sailed for Lykes Bros. on the Stella Lykes. But back to the movie. 

The actors who played the pirates were Somalis who were living in the United States. They had no maritime experience and had to learn how to handle the outboard motor boats in the open ocean. It was filmed on an actual ship and not on a set. They also filmed at sea rather than by special effects. This really added to the realism of the movie. 

If I didn't know that this really happened, I would say that the plot was completely implausible. The Somali pirates in a tiny boat commandeering a vast container ship seems very improbable. But it did happen and the movie makes it so real that you feel the sea spray. 

The last third of the movie is the reason you should not get a large drink at the beginning of the movie. Even though I knew that he would be rescued, I didn't know when or how. And that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat despite the large drink. 

It's a good action suspense movie and Tom Hanks deserves an Academy Award for his performance. Actually the guy who played the head Somali pirate deserves an award too.  So sit back and enjoy a good movie. 

What a disgrace!

The debacle in Washington is a disgrace and an embarrassment.  I hope the Republicans get clobbered in the Midterm elections. But that is a year away and in the meantime, so many people are being economically devastated by the sequester first and now by the government shutdown. The Republicans are so determined to prevent healthcare for all and determined to do everything they can to undermine any and everything President Obama tries to do.  

Let us hope that somehow enough of our legislators will come to their senses before anymore serious damage is inflicted on our nation. 

Update: The Shutdown has ended but Sequestration is still in effect.  Now the question is: Will we have to go through this all over again in January??

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Yellow mushrooms

We have a nice crop of mushrooms around OakMeadows this week following the much needed recent rain.

Leucocoprinus birnbaumii is a species of gilled mushroom in the family Agaricaceae. It is common in the tropics and subtropics, but in temperate regions frequently occurs in hothouses and flowerpots, hence its common names of flowerpot parasol and plantpot dapperling. Basidiocarps (fruit bodies) are poisonous, if consumed.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Soup Project - Pasta Fagioli (Slow Cooker Version)

Pasta Fagioli (Slow Cooker Version)
2 pounds ground beef (I like to use a coarsely ground beef such as Chili Meat.)
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 16 oz. can red kidney beans, drained
1 16 oz. can white kidney beans (cannellini beans), drained
3 10 oz. cans beef stock
3 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons pepper
5 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (Optional, I don't use it.)
1 20 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
8 oz. pasta
1. Brown beef in a skillet.
2. Drain fat from beef and add to slow cooker with everything except the pasta.
3. Cook on low 7-8 hours or on high 4-5 hours.
4. During last 30 minutes on high or 1 hour on low, add pasta.
That's it. Serve with hot garlic bread and a green salad.

Meditation on Mercy

“The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.”
― William ShakespeareThe Merchant of Venice

Friday, October 11, 2013

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, October 19

     Make appointment for grandfather clock repair--done. 
     Finalize Fidelity allocations
     Renew TDL--done. 
     Sign & notarize paperwork--not done. 
     Block #18--done. 
     Remove rose bushes--not done. 
     One Summer by Bill Bryson -- in progress. 
     Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (Audio CD) --finished. 
     What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz -- in progress.
     4 dinners--done. 
     Apple-Pecan Muffins for freezer--done. 
     Oatmeal cookies -- done. 
     Exercise 5 days--ha ha!!
     Weight Watchers -- more ha ha!!
     Make dental appointment for having crown replaced.  :((. -- not done. 
     Daily Bible reading. -- done. 
     ABF/Church. -- done
     Women in the Word--done.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The News

The News

Remember a couple of weeks ago when Syria was the big emergency and just before that turmoil in Egypt was the crisis and before that the Greek financial crisis and before that....  There is always a crisis, always a wrenching tragedy, always tension. Until you turn the radio/television/Internet off and find that not only does the world not end but that there are blue skies with puffy white clouds still there to watch and birds are still singing for you to listen to.

The crisis this week it is the idiot Republicans causing mayhem with the nation's finances. It is a shame and I plan to vote for anyone other than my current Republican idiots in the House and Senate. But that is a year from now and I have no intention of being upset about it for another minute. Besides, in the next year there will be at least 10 more crises/tragedies to feed the news cycle frenzy.

Here is how I deal with news of various crises: I read about it, if there is anything I can do about it, I do it, and then I go live my life--quilting, reading, cooking, gardening. You notice I state that I read about it. I have found that reading the news, as in an old-fashioned real newspaper that leaves you with newsprint on your fingers, gives one the information without all the tension filled urgency of radio/television/Internet news. As an example, the mess in Syria. I read about it and realized that we were about to muddle our way into another Middle East mess. So I emailed and then called both my Senators, my Representative, and the President and stated my firm opinion that we should not blow up anything or anyone in Syria. That's it. On to other things.  The current government shutdown, nothing to do until November, 2014.

One thing that allows me to do this is that I have no debt, my house and vehicles are paid for, I have saved a hefty emergency fund, and I always live well below my means. The other thing is taking maintenance of my health seriously--weight, blood pressure, diet & exercise, pleasure in small things. If you have your health and adequate finances, you are well on the way to a happy life. (Especially if you limit the amount of "the news" that enters your head.

A Pleasant Movie Surprise

I had never seen Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood so quite a while back I put it on my Netflix queue. (Yes, we use the DVDs by mail system as our satellite internet connection isn't up to streaming quality.) In all honesty, I didn't think I was going to like it and almost sent it back without watching it. But yesterday I decided to watch a bit of it in the off chance that it might be worth watching. Well, I was just mesmerized from the very beginning. Ashley Judd and Sandra Bullock were astonishing. The theme was that as we grow up what we think we know about our mothers is sometimes just the tip of the iceberg. 
If you haven't seen it, give it a try. You may be as pleasantly surprised as I was. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” Plato

Friday, October 4, 2013

Goals for the Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, October 12

     Make appointment for grandfather clock repair
     Finalize Fidelity allocations
     Block #17
     Remove rose bushes
    The Gift of Adversity by Norman Rosenthal
     Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (Audio CD)
     What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz
     Breach of Trust by Andrew Bacevich
     4 dinners
     1 batch of muffins
     Exercise 5 days
     Weight Watchers
     Make dental appointment for having crown replaced.  :((
     Daily Bible reading

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Know thyself

Know thyself

Reading Barbara's Living Richly in Retirement blog is always a pleasure but today 's post really started me thinking. She lists things that she knows about herself and talks about how knowing yourself is part of living richly in retirement. So today I am taking a lesson from Barbara and thinking about what I know about myself. 

I don't like crowds.  I don't trust crowds. Worst are throngs of people yelling. Small groups of 10-20 are fine but once I start running out of space around me, I start looking for an exit.  I've always been this way. Maybe it comes from being raised as an only child. 

I like order and a plan. Spontaneous is fine once in a while but I generally like to know what's coming next and where my car keys are.  I am in awe of people who can go to a farmer's market, pick up whatever is freshest in season, and come home, toss it with some freshly made pasta, and have a tasty meal.  

I am not an energetic person. I require quiet and rest. When I have a big chore, I break it into small sections and do it a little at a time. I don't like exercise and eagerly await the day when exercise is no longer the fashionable cure for everything. 

I am a rabid environmentalist. Always have been. I am pretty much always on wild life's side. To this day I remember being traumatized by the movie Old Yeller. Before graduating from high school (in 1965), I joined the SierraClub and the Audubon Society and started recycling.  So this is nothing new.  However, this is not to suggest that I like camping. No, no, no! My rule is that I will go anywhere during the day but I want clean sheets, a hot shower, and a flush toilet at the end of the day. Period. Not negotiable. 

I am not into cooking. But since I am into eating, I manage to keep us reasonably well fed. I wish I could be a vegetarian but that is not going to happen.  I admire people who look on cooking as a pleasurable adventure but I would rather read a cookbook than actually cook something from it. 

I love to read. Almost everything. Nonfiction and fiction. I've tried book clubs but I prefer GoodReads online.'s One Click is a real danger to me and my Kindle. 

Church is a problem because I am not much of a true believer. I suppose I could be a Quaker or a Unitarian. 

I am a quilter. Always have been. One of my pleasant childhood memories is playing under the quilting frames while my mother quilted. I learned how to piece the quilt tops by hand but I now do all my piecing on the sewing machine because I think the tops hold together better when they are washed if they are pieced on the machine. But I still do all of the quilting by hand. Slow but I'm not in a hurry anyway.

More later as I think some more.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Men seeking power

The Government Shutdown. 

It makes me so sad that our congress is so dysfunctional that they are shutting the government down.  The quest for power is so strong that the good of the county is put on the back burner.  We have a Constitution that defines probably the best system of government ever. But men seeking power are subverting it to the detriment of the country.  

I am limiting my news exposure as this has greatly upset me.