Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goals for Week of January 3-9, 2016


          1 Fresh Fruit
          1 Raw Vegetable or Salad
     Exercise DVD

     Buy fabric for new quilt

     Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts (JMM and I are reading this aloud each eventing. So far it is excellent!)
     Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War by Susan Southard
     Sojourner Truth by Mary G. Butler
     The Woman who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith (Audio)

     Corned Beef Hash, Cream Style Corn, Salad
     Pancakes and Sausage
     Baked fish, Carrots/Thyme, Corn
     Steak, GMP, GB

     New front door wreath
     Make appt for estimate on interior painting

     Movie with JMM & TSMR
     Lunch with Sherry,
     Follow up visit with surgeon
     Lunch with P&W&C&B

10 Best Books that I Read in 2015

The Ten Best Books that I Read in 2015

This list includes both fiction and nonfiction. I read a lot more nonfiction than fiction. Books are not listed in any particular order.  According to Goodreads, I read 68 books in 2015. I probably won't read so many in 2016, probably 40-50. I don't like rushing through most books (unless it is an absolute page turner which I can't put down.) So here are my favorites from 2015.

1. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larsen
2. A Full Life: Reflections at 90 by Jimmy Carter
3. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
4. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (Armand Gamache #8)
5.  The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
6. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
7. Lights Out by Ted Koppel
8. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
9. Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner
10. A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs #11)

What were your favorites from 2015? Any recommendations?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

Around Oak Meadows

Around OakMeadows

Just a few days ago JMM was wondering when the Meadowlarks would arrive. And today the first of them showed up.  I was so excited. They are such beautiful birds. They were busily pecking around in the grass and we just admired them.  So now we have our winter beauties, the goldfinches and the meadowlarks. 

Diane Rehm had a program on the Best Movies of 2015 and I made a list of the ones I want to see:
     Where to Invade Next (This wasn't on her program but I saw the ad and added to the list.)
     45 Years
     The Big Short
     The Revenant
Another good thing is that my DD likes to see movies and it is so nice to spend some time with her.   

Cleaning things out.  I am not a keeper; I am a cleaner-outer.  Taking things to Goodwill or Salvation Army has always been a regular stop on the errand run. I regularly clean out cabinets, closets, and drawers. So how in the world do I still have so much carp??
Case in point: I have a shelf in the garage with gardening chemicals and poisons.  Some of those poisons are probably not legal now because they were purchased decades ago. It is my intention to get rid of every last bottle and box but you can't just poor that stuff down the drain for fear of contaminating the water table. I know Harris County occasionally has a hazardous chemical roundup where people can bring these foul chemicals to be safely disposed of. Surely Fort Bend County has something similar.  Stuff, it sneaks up on you.  

2016 The Year of the Vegetable!

Several years ago I decided to spend a whole year learning to make a new soup each month.  It was a fun and interesting learning experience and I learned how to make several soups that were real keepers.  If I remember correctly (which is often not a safe assumption) the next year I concentrated on Muffins and made a new to me muffin recipe each month. 
Well 2016 is going to be dedicated to expanding my repertoire of vegetables. Each month I am going to either try a new vegetable that we don't normally eat or a vegetable that we eat but in a completely new way. 
JMM was very happy to participate in my muffin and soup years but this is going to be a tough year for him, a vegetable hater. 

For the first vegetable, I'm going to make Lemon Steamed Spinach from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. 

2 10 ounce bags of baby leaf spinach
1-1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

Have your steamer set up and ready to go—make sure you don't fill the pot with so much water that it will boil up into the steaming basket.

Put the spinach in a bowl and toss it with 1 tablespoon of the oil, the zest, and salt and pepper to taste. 

Taste for seasoning and, if the spinach looks dry, add some or all of the remaining olive oil. 

Turn the spinach into the pot, cover, and steam for 3 minutes—the spinach will probably need another minute or two before it's tender, but it's a good idea to check early and to give it a turn. 

The spinach should be served as soon as it's cooked. 


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Saturday, December 26, 2015

December Meditation

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” 
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, December 25, 2015

December Poetry


If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too; 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies, 
Or being hated don't give way to hating, 
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; 
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; 
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
And treat those two impostors just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken 
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools; 
If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
 If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" 
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch; 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; 
If all men count with you, but none too much;
 If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, 
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, 
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son! 

Rudyard Kipling, 1910

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Goals for the Week of December 27 - January 2

     Daily Bible reading
     Saying of the Desert Fathers

     Healthy Breakfast
     Chair Dancing DVD

     Hem border of baby quilt
     Order fabric for next quilt

     Wildwood: A Journey through Trees by Roger Deakin
     Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War by Susan Southard
     Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts (next book for JMM and I to read aloud)

     Seafood Pasta
     Chicken tenders, GMP, GB
     Beef and Bok Choy Stir Fry

     Order pillows (finally)
     Plumber coming Tuesday
     New Year's Day - Pack up Christmas decorations

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Deep South by Paul Theroux

Deep South by Paul Theroux

I am a lifelong Southerner and I thoroughly enjoyed Deep South.  I've read that some people were offended by his focus on the backwardness and poverty of the South.  Yes, he says at the outset that he is going to travel the back roads and avoid anything touristy and he does just that.  If you wanted a book on the "New South," you've got the wrong book. 

He travels the back roads, stopping to talk to people at roadside cafes, attends small country churches, and talks to small farm owners.  He points out that much of the poverty that he sees is very much like the poverty that he has seen in his travels to third world countries.  Only there is no billions of foreign aide going to the impoverished people of the small Southern towns.  Many of the towns were devastated by the move of manufacturing to cheaper overseas plants.  

My one complaint about the book is that he occasionally wanders off the travelogue and into philosophical discussions of Southern literature.  As long as he stays with his journey and the people he meets, the book is first rate. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Around OakMeadows

Around OakMeadows

Hernia repair surgery went well.  It was done by laparoscope so there was no large abdominal incision.  I went in at 7:30 and was out by 10. I was ready to leave at noon but unfortunately my bladder was not. It was somewhat functional by 2 pm in that when I stood up, I peed all over myself and I continued in that mode until nearly midnight when I started gaining some control.  I spent the rest of the night washing towels and sheets. I don't know what caused the delay in function but how thankful I am that the plumbing is working correctly once again.  

The news regularly irritates me so this is nothing new. But I must say I am tired of hearing how frightened Americans are by the terrorists in Paris and San Bernardino. 
I'm not living in fear of terrorists and I flat don't know anyone who is. We regularly kill thousands on the highways and thousands more with guns so I figure guns or cars have a much greater chance of causing harm to me or my family than terrorists. Get a grip.

We went to see the new Star Wars. I was really disappointed.  It was such a rehash. The bright spots were the two new characters. 

Today is the Winter Solstice. I'll be glad to have a little more daylight.  Hope everyone has a happy holiday. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

January Menu

January Menu

1. Friday -- Out
2. Saturday -- CB Hash, Cream Style Corn, Salad
3. Sunday -- Pancakes, Sausage
4. Monday -- Baked Fish, Carrots/Thyme, Corn
5. Tuesday -- Chicken-Rice Bake
6. Wednesday -- Steak, GMP, GB
7. Thursday -- Leftovers
8. Friday -- Out
9. Saturday -- Stuffed Wieners, Corn, Salad
10. Sunday -- Slow Cooker Beef
11. Monday -- Shrimp Jambalaya
12. Tuesday -- Chicken and Snow Peas
13. Wednesday -- Cutlets, GMP, Corn
14. Thursday -- Leftovers
15. Friday -- Out
16. Saturday -- Macaroni and Cheese
17. Sunday -- Schlotsky's 
18. Monday -- Tuna Salad, Veggie Tray
19. Tuesday -- Chicken Tenders
20. Wednesday -- Pizza
21. Thursday -- Leftovers
22. Friday -- Out
23. Saturday -- Scrambled Eggs, Sausage, Toast
24. Sunday -- Beef and Bok Choy Stir Fry
25. Monday -- Seafood Pasta
26. Tuesday -- HBs
27. Wednesday -- Spaghetti and Meatballs, Salad
28. Thursday -- Leftovers
29. Friday -- Out
30. Saturday -- Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries
31. Sunday -- Lasagna

Saturday, December 19, 2015

December Meditation

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Winston Churchill

Friday, December 18, 2015

December Poetry


Out of the night that covers me, 
Black as the Pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
For my unconquerable soul. 
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
My head is bloody, but unbowed. 
Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
Finds and shall find me unafraid. 
It matters not how strait the gate, 
How charged with punishments the scroll,
 I am the master of my fate: 
I am the captain of my soul. 

William Ernest Henley, 1875

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Galveston Birds -- Winter

Joe and I are native Galvestonians and it is one of our favorite birding spots, especially in the winter. Then after a morning of birding there are so many good places to eat lunch.  

Royal terns

Royal tern


Black Skimmers

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Off for a couple of days

I will be having an umbilical hernia repaired tomorrow so I will be away for a few days.  The surgery will be done by laparoscope so I won't have a big abdominal incision which is good.  It is day surgery so I will be home in the afternoon.  I've made Shrimp Jambalaya and a pot of Beef and Barley Soup so cooking is done for a while.  I've put this off and now it is time to just get it taken care of. I'll be back in a few days.  

December Meditation

“What right have you to take the word wealth, which originally meant ''well-being,'' and degrade and narrow it by confining it to certain sorts of material objects measured by money.”

~ John Ruskin

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Fun Meme

I usually don't do these but here goes:


1) Do you eat blue cheese?
      No, but I love feta. 

2)  Have you ever smoked?
          No, I can't stand the smell of it. 
3)  Do you own a gun?
          No, I'm so uncoordinated that there is no telling what I would shoot if I ever had one in my hands. 

4)  What flavor of Kool Aid is your favorite?
          I don't think I've ever drank KoolAid. 

5)  Do you get nervous before dental appointments?
          Not before routine dental cleaning but for anything that requires numbing, I'm a total wus. 

6)  What do you think of hot dogs?
           Movie hot dogs are a secret sin of mine. 

7)  What's your favorite Christmas movie?
          I don't watch them.  I do have a tradition of watching a marathon of The Godfather movies on New Years Day. 

 8) What do you prefer to drink in the morning?   
           Orange juice

9)  Can you do push-ups?
          Why on earth would I do that?
10)  What's your favorite piece of jewelry?
          I'm not much of a jewelry wearer but I bought a Monarch butterfly necklace at the Texas Butterfly Festival and I'm enjoying wearing it.  

11)  What's your favorite hobby?
           Quilting and Reading

12)  Do you have A.D.D.?
          No. I'm usually busy doing one thing or another but I generally focus easily on what I am doing. 
13)  Do you wear glasses or contacts?
          Glasses. I would never be able to stand putting something in my eyes. 

14)  What's your middle name?

15)  What are your thoughts at this moment?
          It's been a nice day and I am pleasantly tired. Enjoying doing this meme. 

16)  Name 3 drinks you regularly consume.
          Water, milk, Orange juice, CocaCola
17)  What is a current worry of yours?
          Nothing really.  I wish people would be kinder and gentler with each other and with the earth. 
18)  What do you currently hate?
           Animal abuse. 

19)  Where is your favorite place to be?

20)  What do you plan on doing on New Year's Eve this year?

21)  To where would you like to travel?
          Yellowstone National Park. 

22)  Name three people you think will do this questionnaire on their
           No idea, let's hope someone does. 

23)  Do you own slippers?
24)  What color shirt are you wearing?
          Blue tee shirt. 

25)  Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
          I've never slept on satin sheets but I don't think I world like it. 

26)  Can you whistle?
          Not at all. 
27)  What is your favorite color? 
            Warm colors-- rust, peach, cream

28)  What songs do you sing in the shower?
          Oh what a beautiful morning,
          Oh what a beautiful day.....

29)  Would you be a pirate? 
          Heavens, No!!

30)  What's in your pocket right now?

31)  What's the last thing that made you laugh?
          I watched a YouTube video of a woman talking about breastfeeding her babies and it was so funny that I laughed and laughed. 

32)  What vehicle do you drive?
          Honda Odyssey
33)  What's the worst injury you've ever had?
          I tripped and fell and tried to break my fall with my arms which resulted in dislocating one elbow and fracturing the other. 

34)  Do you love where you live?
          I love my home and 4 acres. 

35)  Would you change your first name if you could?
          No. I was named for my Grandmother who was named for Florence Nightingale. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

More butterflies from the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Texas Crescent

Red Admiral


RedBordered Pixie

Pipevine Swallowtail

Around OakMeadows

The goldfinches have arrived.  I saw a single goldfinch last week so I knew the rest of the crowd would be arriving soon.  We got the thistle feeders filled and hung just in time.  We have a flock of about 20-25 of these beautiful little creatures.  They will be with us until March and we will keep them well fed with sunflower and thistle seed.  Love them so much.

I was at the dental office yesterday for a routine teeth cleaning.  When I asked my dentist about his children, he told me that his 4 year old daughter has a tumor on her optic nerve.  It is benign/noninvasive but is growing and damaging her optic nerve. Due to the location, it is inoperable 
and radiation is not advised so she is undergoing 80 weeks of chemotherapy. Yes, 80 weeks. She is now at week 30. So far she is tolerating the chemo. The tumor is not growing and has shrunk some but she is now legally blind in her right eye. It was all I could do not to cry while he was telling me about this.  

For my birthday last weekend we drove to the Kimbell Museum for an exhibit of the Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte.  The Houston Museum of Fine Art has one of his paintings that I have always loved so I was very pleased to learn that a whole exhibit of his work was coming to the Kimbell.  It was lovely. But I still love the painting at Houston MFA best of all. 

I have finally finished the quilting on the baby quilt.  Next I need to trim and bind the edges.  I have a goal of doing 3 quilts next year: 1 baby quilt, 1 scrap quilt, and 1 quilt for my DD & SIL. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chicken Cacciatore from PW's Dinnertime cookbook

Everything I have made so far from this cookbook has been scrumptious.  This was no exception -- excellent. 

8 skin-on chicken thighs (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead.)
½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper, more to taste 
½ cup all-purpose flour 
¼ cup olive oil 
2 tablespoons butter 
1 medium onion, halved and sliced 
2 red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced 
2 green bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced 
5 garlic cloves, minced 
12 ounces white button or cremini mushrooms, sliced (I used sliced Baby Bella mushrooms.)
½ teaspoon ground thyme 
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric 
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1 cup dry white wine or low-sodium chicken broth 
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes 
1 pound wide egg noodles 
Minced parsley, for sprinkling 
Grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

(I was convinced that 4 bell peppers and and onion were too many but it cooked down to just right.)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.

2. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and black pepper to taste and dredge it in the flour. 

3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat. Working in 
batches, place the chicken skin side down in the pot. Brown the chicken on both sides, about 2 minutes total, and remove it to a clean plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Pour off half the fat from the pot and discard.

4. Add the onion, bell peppers, garlic, mushrooms, thyme, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and salt and black pepper to taste. 

5. Stir and cook the mixture for a few minutes, until the veggies start to soften and turn golden. (The 
turmeric will also add some gorgeous golden color.) 

6. Pour in the wine (or broth) . . . 

7. Then stir and let the liquid bubble up and reduce for a couple of minutes. 

8. Pour in the tomatoes, juice and all . . . 

9. Then return the chicken to the pan skin side up, slightly submerging it in the liquid and spooning some of the veggies on top. Place the lid on the pot, put the pot in the oven, and braise the chicken for 45 minutes. 

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles to al dente, then drain.

10. Remove the lid and increase the oven temperature to 375 ° F. Braise for 15 to 20 minutes more.

Serve over noodles.  

This makes great leftovers too.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Goals for the Week December 3-10, 2015

     Daily Bible Reading
     Sayings of the Desert Fathers

     Healthy Breakfasts
     Chair Dancing DVD
     Dentist for routine cleaning

     Finish baby quilt

     Deep South by Paul Theroux
     Wildwood: A Journey through Trees by Roger Deakin
     The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
     Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War by Susan Southard

     Mac and Cheese
     Tuna Salad
     Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
     Steak, GMP, GB

     Order pillows

     Lunch with T&C
     Trip to Kimball Museum to see Caillebotte exhibit 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

It is cold and wet and gray, so.....

I thought I'd remind us of warmer days with photos from a summer trip to Mercer Arboretum.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Around OakMeadows

Around OakMeadows

We went to see Mockingjay Pt. 2 and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I've read several reviews about it that were rather negative but I would give it a 4 out of 5 stars.  And I love Jennifer Lawrence.  And she chose the right guy in the end. 

Thanksgiving was good. JMM and I make Turkey and Cornbread-Sausage dressing. We've made it so many times that it's easy and delicious. Daughter and SIL came and brought really delicious mashed potatoes. She used an herb infused butter and heated the cooked potatoes so that they were very dry before adding the milk and butter. Anyway, delicious! It was a very pleasant afternoon.  

Christmas: I have decorations stored in 5 plastic tubs.  None of my decorations involve climbing on anything to put them up.  I don't do a tree, much to my cats dismay.  So Christmas decorating is a simple, easy, pleasant task. I can admire other people's finely decorated homes but have no desire to do more.  As for Christmas shopping, I'd just as soon give everyone a hug and a gift card but JMM felt so deprived as a child that he loves opening Christmas presents.  So I shop online. 

Books: I finished Lights Out by Ted Koppel and wrote a review of it. Good book.  We are still reading Deep South by Paul Theroux. We are about 3/4 of the way through it. I have no idea what we are going to read together next.  I'm currently reading Wildwood: A Journey through Trees by Roger Deakin -- not sure if I'm going to finish it or not. 

Yesterday I did all the preregistration for my hernia repair surgery on December 14.  I'm not looking forward to it but it needs to be done. The surgeon is planning to do it by laparoscope so there will not be a large abdominal incision. And there is a robot involved but I'm not sure how.  Modern medicine.  

Politics is interesting as always.  The GOP candidates are just appalling. And we seem determined to stay at war in the Middle East with one country or another.  There was another shooting in Colorado; sad to say but it is just another shooting and nothing will be done. 

The weather has turned cold (for us) and wet.  Good for staying inside cooking, cooking, and reading. We have one hummingbird still coming to the feeder.  I wish he would move on south where it is warmer and there are more flowers.  

We are driving to Fort Worth on Friday to the Kimball Museum to see an exhibit of the work of Gustave Caillebotte.  I've always loved the one painting of his that is at the Museum of Fine Art here in Houston so I am looking forward to seeing more of his work.  Then we will be driving back on Saturday. 

Well, that's all the news from OakMeadows where the cats sleep on the electric blanket 24/7 and the people are all bundled up. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Goals for the week November 30 - December 5, 2015

Goals for the Week

     Daily Bible Reading
     Sayings of the Desert Fathers

     Pre-Register for Hernia repair surgery
     Healthy Breakfasts
     Exercise DVD X 5
     Mail the few Christmas cards that I send. 
     Put up one box of decorations each day 
     Get thistle feeders up for goldfinches
     Fish, Carrots/Thyme, Corn
     Chicken-Rice Bake
     Steak, GMP, GB

     Deep South by Paul Theroux
     Wildwood: A Journey through Trees by Roger Deakin
     The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (Audio book)

     Trip to Kimball Museum in Fort Worth to see Gustave Caillebotte exhibit.