Saturday, January 31, 2015


"To hold our tongues when everyone is gossiping, to smile without hostility at people and institutions, to compensate for the shortage of love in the world with more love in small, private matters; to be more faithful in our work, to show greater patience, to forgo the cheap revenge obtainable from mockery and criticism: all these are things we can do. "
~ Herman Hesse

The Life of a Season by Dee Slater

Autumn bids a fond farewell 
As Sister Winter takes her place 
The colors of the trees in glory 
With Winter's white is soon replaced 
As Winter's gift is gently falling 
Upon the trees that soundly sleep 
The world in silent wonder watches 
The miracle the season brings 

Sadly, nothing in this fickle world 
May live forever in its youth 
And likewise winter starts to age 
Her beauty she begins to lose 

Her snow white hair now turns to gray 
Her voice is quiet when she speaks 
And as the days grow warm and long, 
Her touch is light while she grows weak 

And soon the people who had loved her 
Grow tired of her chilling song 
Then Winter sadly leaves her throne 
And waits for baby spring to come along 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Goals for Next Week


     Sit and be Fit
     Healthy breakfast and snack

Quilting: Block #7

     Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner
     A Fine Summer's Day by Charles Todd

     Chicken Noodle Soup
     Tuna Salad Sandwiches
     Chicken Rice Bake
     Steak, GMP, GB

     Pick up framed Monet print if it is ready
     Carpet cleaning

     Make appointment for haircut
     Lunch with JMM's brother David

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Devil's Cave by Martin Walker

Isabelle, you are a fool.  Bruno, you can cook for me any time! But enough of the personal and on to the review.
It is spring in the Dordogne, the choir is practicing for the Easter service in the church in the small town of St. Denis. Ah, but into the bud a worm has come. More specifically, the nude body of a woman is spotted floating in a punt down the river. And Bruno, Chief of Police, is once again called upon to find the truth of what happened. Was it suicide or was it a part of a Satanic ritual?
Complications to the peaceful life in the form of plans to build a vacation village and golf course with a sports complex are thrown in for good measure. While Pamela is out of the country taking care of her sick mother, the foolish (IMHO) Isabelle returns to St. Denis bringing an adorable puppy to replace the much loved Gigi who was killed in a previous book. Add in a little history of the French Resistance for good measure. And course, Bruno cooks for friends (and lovers) while solving the mysteries and puzzles of his beloved St. Denis. If you love food and France and a good mystery, well, you really must come to St. Denis and meet Bruno, Chief of Police. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Around Oak Meadows

My 2004 Honda Odyssey has 175,000 miles on it.  It has been a terrific vehicle, reliable, dependable, and has transported me and my scooter for 11 years. It is like a comfortable friend. One reason it has been such a good vehicle is that I have religiously maintained it.  Tuesday I took it in for maintenance.  While $578 is a lot of money, it is worth it to keep it going for one last year.  If all goes as planned (which we all know that it seldom does), I plan to trade it in the first of next year. I will have to get a new lift for my scooter and have it installed.

I don't know if I have ever mentioned that I have a cleaning service come once a month. When I was working, I had them every other week. They have been helping me for 12 years and I am so thankful for them.  There are 4 of them, two women and two men and it takes them about 2 hours to give my house a good cleaning. I love that the two guys are able to move my refrigerator or washer and drier out and clean behind them.  It is funny that on mornings when they are coming, JMM and I get up early so we can get everything picked up before the housecleaners come. I get the beds stripped so they can make up the beds with clean sheets; JMM moves the cat's litter box out of the bathtub; I get all the dishes in the dishwasher and all the stuff off the counters. Cleaning before the cleaners come!

We are dog-sitting for 2 weeks while daughter and son-in-law are in France.  Their ancient cocker-spaniel is deaf and arthritic but she still loves to eat, especially people food.  DD has always kept her on a strict diet to keep her weight down. I have good intentions but usually end up sharing my scrambled eggs with her or putting gravy on her chow. It makes her happy and that makes me happy.

We had a few days respite from the cold, dreary, rainy weather.  And I certainly enjoyed those warm, sunny days.  But we are back to the cold, gray, rain today. OTOH, days like this are perfect for naps with cats or reading a good book with a quilt on my lap and a mug of hot tea.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chicken-Rice Bake

This is a very old recipe that is quick and easy and filling. It is not high on the foodie cuisine list nor is it exactly Weight Watchers friendly but nevertheless it is very tasty.  Serve with a green salad

1 10 1/2 can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 cup rice, uncooked
1 10 oz. package frozen mixed vegetables
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

In a large bowl stir together first five ingredients.
Place mixture in a 9x12 inch pain which has been sprayed with Pam.
Place chicken  breasts or thighs in the mixture and top with a sprinkle of Paprika.
Cover tightly and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours

Saturday, January 24, 2015


In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible summer. 

Albert Camus

Friday, January 23, 2015

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most freindship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
William Shakespeare :

Goals for Next Week

     Daily Bible Reading

     Healthy breakfast
     Sit and Be Fit

     Block #6

     Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner
     The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport 
     A Fine Summer's Day by Charles Todd

     Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
     Baked fish, Carrots/Thyme, Corn
     Slow Cooker Farmhouse Chicken and Corn Chowder
     Spaghetti and Meatballs 

     Get estimate for interior painting

     Manicure and pedicure

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Photos from our birding trip to Galveston Island

These are the lovely Sandhill Cranes


White Ibis and Great Egrets


One of my favorites, the Roseate Spoonbill

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Here I Stand: A Biography of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton

This biography of presents Martin Luther as complex man living in tumultuous times  in a clear, readable manner.
The book begins with Luther's days as a monk, his crisis of faith, and the development of his theology which led to his break from Rome, spearheading the Reformation. The central portion of the book deals with the conflict Rome and the Diet of Worms. The events of Luther's life, his words, and his work are always presented within their greater context. Much attention is given to the state of the Catholic Church during Luther's lifetime. The competing Protestant movements, humanism (particularly as pertaining to Erasmus), Anabaptism, the Peasant Revolt, and German nationalism are also put into context.
Bainton does a good job of explaining how Luther, Rome, and other parties differed in their views as to the nature of each and how they differed in their views as to how these points of the triangle properly related to one another - God to Man, Man to Church, and Church to God.

Well written and worth reading. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Around Oak Meadows

JMM's 68th birthday was Saturday.  I baked his German Sweet Chocolate cake as I always do for his birthday. We celebrated with T and C on Sunday to accommodate everybody's schedule.  It was nice to see them and T made a delicious pasta with bolognese sauce.  Add the cake and we were in carbohydrate heaven. 

We have been back to winter this week. Gray, wet, and cold. (My cats are most unhappy that it is cold and wet out both the front and back doors both morning, noon, and night.)  However, I do realize that I have no right to complain compared to the arctic conditions in the Northeast this past week.  

Lots of good reading his week: Plodding on through Wartime Britain--excellent!! but long!! Started a new book in one of my favorite series--the Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker. The Devil's Cave is off to a good start. And finally, I am about 1/3 of the way through The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport.  I have mixed feeling about this book so far. On the one hand, I have respect for the strong family that Nicolas and Alexandra provided for their 5 children. But on the other hand, I am totally exasperated by the fixation on having a son to be the heir. For heaven sakes, Alexandra's
grandmother was Queen Victoria and Nicolas was a descendant of Catherine the Great so it should have entered someone's mind that they have 4 healthy, intelligent daughters to carry on the family dynasty. Well, we shall see how the book progresses. Good so far. 

I received the DVD set The Roosevelts by Ken Burns. Oh is it so excellent!! It is every bit as good as his series on The Civil War.  It focuses on Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt. What complex and how human they were!  If you haven't seen the series, I highly recommend it.

Lots of birds at the feeders.  JMM spotted a flock of about 12 Yellow-rumpled Warblers. Good to see the bluejays.  Cardinals as always. Goldfinches, chickadees,
Tufted Titmouse, and Eastern Phoebe.  And of course the collared doves and JMM saw one white winged dove. We are planning a birding trip to Louisiana if it will ever stop raining.  We want to go to Avery Island.
Quilting on the monster quilt is progressing s l o w l y. I have only finished 4 of the 56 blocks. Why, oh why did I do this to myself??

We went to a special exhibit of Monet and the Seine at the Houston Museum of Fine Art. Lovely. JMM bought a print of The Willows and we are having it framed.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Banana Nut Bread

This recipe comes from the old (1970s) La Leche League Mother's in the Kitchen cookbook. I have never found a recipe for Banana Nut bread that is any tastier or packed with more nutrition. 

1/2 cup oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
3/4 cup pecan pieces

Cream oil,mustard, bananas, vanilla, and eggs. 
Add remaining ingredients and stir well. 
Bake in loaf pan which has been sprayed with Pam. 
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeating refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. 

Rachel Carson, The Silent Spring

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winter-Time by Robert Louis Stevenson

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, and sets again. 

Before the Stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, rise and dress. 

Close by the jolly fire I sit,
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer sled, explore
The colder countries round the door. 

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap,
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose. 

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And hill and house, and tree and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding cake. 

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Next Week

     Sit and Be Fit -- done
     Healthy Breakfast -- done
     Water -- done

Quilting: Block #5 --done

     Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner
     The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport 
     The Devil's Cave by Martin Walker -- Finished

     Bake Banana Nut Bread -- done.
     Shrimp Jambalaya -- done
     Slow Cooker Farmhouse Chicken and Corn Chowder

     Dogsit Daisy for TSM -- Done
     New purse--done. 

     Frame and matte for Monet print -- done
     Sort out videos and DVDs

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Native Trees and Bushes

Over the 10 years we have lived on our 4 acres, we have planted many trees and shrubs that are native to the Texas coastal plains. One tree that has been very hard for us to find is the Anacua tree, Ehretia anacua. It is also known as the Sandpaper tree. It is found from northern Mexico into southern Texas.  While in dry areas it is the size of a shrub, in moister floodplain soils it grows into a tree of respectable heights, 20-40 feet.  The thing that has us so interested in it is that it blooms profusely in the spring and summer and is highly attractive to bees and in the fall it produces small fruits that are eaten by birds and mammals.

I received a notice from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center that the weekend of January 24-25, they will be having their annual native tree sale.  The brochure lists the anacua tree as being available for sale! It is about a 3 hour drive to the Center from our house but JMM is determined to be first through the gate when they open and hopes to get 6 of them.  (Knowing JMM, he will come home with a lot more than just those 6 trees,)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Manuscript Found in Accra

Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho 

It is difficult to classify this book. It is a book of wisdom set in Jerusalem in the year 1099. A diverse group of people gather to hear the Copt answer their questions about life and love while they wait for the destruction of their city by the Christian Crusaders.   It is rather like The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. There are several "pearls of wisdom" scattered through the book such as

     "The most important of wars is not waged with a lofty spirit or a soul accepting of its fate. It is the war that is going on now, as we speak, and whose battlefield is the Spirit, where Good and Evil, Courage and Cowardice, Love and Fear face one another."

     "The wounded person should ask himself: "Is it worth filling my heart with hatred and dragging the weight of it around with me?"

      "The greatest gift God gave us is the power to make decisions."

     "Excessive caution destroys the soul and the heart, because living is an act of courage, and an act of courage is always an act of love."

The cynical person will find this book rather hokey. But there is wisdom and spiritual insight for those interested in life's deep questions.  

Around Oak Meadows

I am now officially ready for spring. We have had weeks of cold (for us), wet, gray days. And as JMM said yesterday, "August doesn't seem so bad now..."

I am quilting away on the monster quilt and have 5 of the 56 blocks quilted. I will have to take a bread from the monster quilet though because my nephew and his wife are expecting their first baby and of course, this gives me an excuse to put the monster away and do a sweet baby quilt.

I have 3 really good books going now: Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner, The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport, and a new Bruno, Chief of Police mystery: The Devils Cave by Martin Walker.

I still haven't figure out why I can't post photos here on the blog.  I am thinking about setting up my own website for the blog but we shall see on that.

JMM has been wanting to learn how to bake bread for over a year and I am no help and not interested.  It is all I can do to keep up with the daily meals.  Well, our daughter gave him a book on bread making where you bake it in a cast iron pot with a lid.  And she gave him the cast iron pot to make it in.  So yesterday he started the dough rising and let it rise over night.  Then this morning he did the second rising and baked it in the pot according to the directions in the book. I do so wish that I could post a picture because it really is a beautiful loaf.  And it really is delicious too.

We are going to the Houston Museum of Fine Art to see the Monet and the Seine exhibit. I'm looking forward to it.

Lots of birds at the feeders in this cold miserable weather: Cardinals, Titmouses, Eastern Phoebe, Bluejays, Doves (both collared and an occasional white-winged) and, of course, our darling goldfinches.

Hope everyone stays warm and well.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Balsamic-Braised Chicken (Revised)

I finally got around to making this and while it was good, I've made some changes to make it even better.  First, leave out the chard and serve over mashed potatoes with a side of steamed green beans. 
Second, it needs more liquid so bump the chicken stock up to 1 1/2 cups. And finally, I don't know how you could get 12 bone-in chicken thighs into this-- totally too much chicken. I used 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs and it was just the right amount. 
The sauce is just delicious and goes over mashed potatoes like it was made for it. 

Balsamic-Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
5 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 anchovy fillet, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 bay leaves
12 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed (6 boneless, skinless)
Salt and pepper
6 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and leaves slices 1/2 inch thick (leave this out)

Heat oil in 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onion, thyme, tomato paste, garlic anchovy, and red pepper flakes and cook until onion is softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in vinegar, scrapping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps; cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes, and transfer to slow cooker.  

Stir tomatoes, broth, wine, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours on low. 

Gently stir in chard, and cook on high until tender, 30-45 minutes.  Transfer chicken to serving platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let braising liquid to settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from the surface using a large spoon. Discard bay leaves.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015


As a part of nature's wondrous cycle 
Of new birth, growth, fruitfulness and death 
We rejoice in the creation of new life, 
For parenthood, the passing on of knowledge, 
For understanding and the wisdom of years.
We are grateful for those who have gone before
Passing on to us our spiritual heritage.
May our lives blossom as the apple tree in Spring
May we become fruitful in thought and deed
And may the seed of love that falls to the ground 
Linger beyond our time on this earth.

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

January by John Updike

The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between 
The dark and dark. 

Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor. 
Milk bottles burst
Outside the door. 

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace. 

The sky is low
The wind is gray. 
The radiator
Purrs all day. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

This and that

I made the Slow Cooker Balsamic-Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard today except I left out the Swiss Chard. I had put the Swiss Chard in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator and it froze solid.  I thawed it out but it was mush so I left it out. Let me tell you, it was terrific without the SC! The sauce was so good over mashed potatoes.  Next time I make it, I'm not going to do the SC at all but serve it over mashed potatoes as I did this time and have steamed green beans as a side.  This recipe is a keeper.

Speaking of cooking, my next cooking project is Joe's birthday cake. I always make a German Sweet Chocolate cake for him. So that's at least 46 GC Cakes I've made for him over the years.

Today they poured the foundation for our shed.  The well head will be in the shed and I am looking forward to getting the generator, the tiller, the mower, and other equipment out of the garage.

I have absolutely no idea why I cannot post pictures onto my blog from my phone. The photos are on my iPhone and are there under the Photos icon on both the iPhone and iPad but do not show up on the  Blogger page where I should be able to choose from the blog, Picasa, my phone, or a URL.
Any suggestions would be welcome!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Around Oak Meadows

One of our not so little kittens, Duffy, simply has to climb anything and everything. If there is no tree around, well, he will climb a bush as in the pictures below. Not to be outdone by the young whippersnapper, my 11 year old cat, Bandit goes up too. Bandit, however, has good sense enough not to go too high. JMM has had to get the extension ladder on more than one occasion to rescue Duffy from the elm or oak trees. Here is Duffy and Bandit climbing the Vitex bush. (The picture is not very clear because it has been very overcast for several days

JMM bought a treadmill and it was delivered and set up this afternoon. I am pleased that he bought it and I do think he will use it. My feelings about exercise are:

Here is a photo of me working on the monster quilt...with help. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow. 

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year. 

He gives his harness bells a shake
To wrk if there is some mistake. 
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. 
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Goals for Next Week

PGoals for Next Week

     Sit and Be Fit 
     Healthy Breakfast

Quilting: Cut out baby quilt

     Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner
     The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport 
     The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart
     Make It Ahead Cookbook by Ina Garten

     Bake German Chocolate Cake for JMM BD
     Baked fish, Carrots/Thyme, Cabbage
     Slow Cooker Balsamic Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard
     Steak, GMP, GB

     Haircut and Manicure

     Pack away Christmas decorations
     Sort out videos and DVDs