Monday, February 28, 2011


My neice, Megan, is a leapling. Even though she is in college now, she has only had 4 official birthdays. Next year she will have her 5th. She was born on February 29, a day that only comes around every four years. If you want to stay young, you can't beat this method. We don't torture her by making her wait four years for presents. She celebrates her birthday on February 28 or March 1.

February 29 is a date that usually occurs every four years, and is called leap day. This day is added to the calendar in leap years as a corrective measure, because the earth does not orbit around the sun in precisely 365 days. Adding an extra day to the calendar every four years compensates for the fact that a period of 365 days is shorter than a solar year by almost 6 hours (Wikipedia).

This is way more complicated than my pea brain can handle. What matters to me is that poor Megan gets to celebrate her birthday. I don't know if she reads my blog, but I'd like to wish her the best. Happy Birthday, Megan!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Red Bull Dog

We have a lot of shoes in the house, but there are only two shoes Riley adores. They both belong to me. One is my purple Acorn slipper and the other is my pink and brown Crocs sandal. Why he has an affinity for these two shoes is a mystery to me.

He doesn't chew them. If he did, they'd be long gone. He does something else with them. Something very strange.

Each evening after Riley has had his dinner and he has been out to use the backyard facilities, he returns with a new exuberance for life. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he has a shot of Red Bull while he's at it. Red Bull is that energy drink that "gives you wings."

Upon entering the house, Riley does a mad dash up and down the halls for about 60 seconds at the speed of light. The only catch is he can't do it without having one of these two shoes in his mouth. He will locate one of the shoes (most likely through sense of smell), grab it and go. Sometimes he shakes the living daylights out of the shoe for good measure. If only I could understand dog language better. I'd love to know what this means.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

For Cropping Out Loud

I spent most of my weekend getting my scrapbooks up to date. Remember all those photos I had in piles the other day? All 90 piles are now on scrapbook pages. In addition to Katherine's 90 pages, I completed about 30 pages for Daniel. How did I do all that? I did it at my friend Esther's Croppin' Out Loud session from Friday at noon until Saturday at 4:00. I did go home from 10pm to 9am to sleep. Other than that, I had my nose to the grindstone.

I wasn't there alone. There were 20 of us. That made it much more fun than holing myself up in the basement. Don asked, "and why did you need to go to someone else's house to do this?" Just look at this group of like-minded women. I needed the moral support!

Besides, Esther, our hostess (and Creative Memories consultant), provided three meals for us. Dinner was from Bob Evans, breakfast was cooked by her husband, Rick, and lunch was from Subway. Plus, everyone brought a dish to share. Don't worry, there were plenty of healthy choices.

I had a great time, and I accomplished something that has been on my "to do" list for a long time. That feels pretty good.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mise en place

I made Macaroni and Cheese for dinner last night. It wasn't the Kraft boxed macaroni and cheese, either. It was "from scratch" macaroni and cheese. It is a delicate process to make the roux and melt the cheese, as you may know if you've ever done it. If you are not careful, you can get clumps in your roux.

Never is it more important to have all your ingredients on the counter, measured and sitting there ready to go than when making macaroni and cheese. Actually, it would help to do this with any recipe.

Here is how I usually cook: the recipe calls for eggs, so I open the refrigerator and get the eggs. Next, some sugar is needed, so I open the cupboard and get the sugar, etc.

But last night, I got everything ready. I even grated my own cheese and cooked the elbow macaroni ahead of time. I never felt so prepared to create a masterpiece. I pulled off the dish flawlessly. The French know what they are talking about. If only I could have a sous chef to do all the mise en place.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Murder at the Vicarage

I started reading this book when I was on my way home from Florida--right after I finished crying over that sad horse story -- three weeks ago. That tells you how difficult it has been to get through these pages. I haven't read much Agatha Christie, but I thought since it was a murder mystery, it would be fast-paced and exciting.

The book was written in 1930. Maybe that was the problem. It was her first Miss Marple Mystery. She was apparently just getting warmed up. Normally, when a book trudges along at this pace, I quietly take it back to the library or donate it to some unsuspecting soul at the next book sale. 

In a murder mystery, the victim is killed in the first couple of chapters. The rest of the book is designed to string you along to the end where the author finally reveals who did it. If you close the book, you never know who the scoundrel was.

So, I kept plodding along. I'd read a chapter or two a day, hoping that each day would be the one in which I would find out the answer to my burning question: who in the world killed Colonel Protheroe???? Was it his daughter, Lettice? Was it the Vicar's nephew, Dennis ? Was it Mrs. Lestrange? I really didn't care who did it, I just wanted to get started on the next book in my ever-growing pile of back reading.

I finally got the answer today on page 230. Phew! I am so happy. You don't think I'm going to tell YOU who did it, do you? You might want to read this book some day. After this review...maybe not.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Too Many Pictures

I am behind on my scrapbooks. Way behind! I am seven years behind on documenting Katherine's life. She would probably say, "that's ok, you don't have to catch up," but I can't let it go. So today, I spent the day sorting and sifting and piling pictures. 

There were piles on the pool table
There were more piles on the bar

These are just some of the piles. For every picture selected for one of these piles, four were placed in the pile marked "don't need". That pile was a foot tall. 

The hard part is over. The piles are in chronological order. Each pile has 4-5 pictures... just enough to fit on a scrapbook page. There are 90 piles altogether. Sticking them down will be a breeze. Thankfully, Daniel and Peter's scrapbooks are only three years behind. After I get caught up on those, I won't take any more pictures! Problem solved. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Open Season for Chipmunks

I let Riley out after breakfast this morning. When he didn't come back in his usual 2 minutes, I went about my business and forgot about him. About 15 minutes later, I realized he still wasn't at the door. This called for getting my boots and coat on to see what he was up to. I also took my camera because the sun was shining on the icy trees.

Where do you think Riley was? He was at the chipmunk bush with his head buried in a hole. The chipmunks were awakened from their hibernation with last week's thaw. I saw one running around the fire pit. Riley is keenly aware of the invasion.

He went from one end of the chipmunk burrow to the other, sniffing and whimpering. He was so absorbed in his activity he didn't even notice I was there.

Riley with his head in a hole

Riley coming up for air

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chicken Chili

Patty made a big pot of this Chicken Chili when she had us over last Friday. I made my second attempt yesterday, and it came out much better than the first attempt. The first time around, I didn't pay attention to the sizes of the canned goods and I was missing a key ingredient. The way I made it is a little different from her original recipe, but it came out very tasty. Daniel liked it a lot. He and I are the only Chicken Chili eaters around here, so we have plenty of leftovers. It is very simple to make, it is healthy, and it really fills you up! This is how I made it:

White Bean Chicken Chili

1 T. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1/2 c.  Salsa Verde
1 (10 ounce) can Ro*Tel diced tomatoes with lime juice & cilantro
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
1 (15 ounce) can white corn
1 (15 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 shredded breasts from a rotisserie chicken
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of pepper

Heat oil in small skillet. Saute onion and garlic 5 minutes. Put everything into a crockpot. Cook on low 8 hours. Serve with good quality tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Birthday, Again

I love stringing my birthday out over a month or two. Since Katherine and Daniel weren't able to be home the weekend of my real birthday, we decided to celebrate it again this weekend. I was so surprised when Peter presented me with my very own cake. He heard from someone who reads my blog that no one had made me a cake for a really long time. This cake is an ice cream cake.

The cake had several layers: graham cracker crust, ice cream middle, chocolate syrup, cool whip top and graham cracker crumbs sprinkled over that. To make it really special, he put chocolate ice cream on one side of the cake and vanilla ice cream on the other side. Where the two ice cream flavors met in the middle, it was swirled.

Peter and I have made this cake several times. It is another of Mrs. Forsythe's recipes. He just remembered how to do it. But if you want to make an ice cream cake yourself, here are the instructions. It's not difficult, but it takes all day and a good memory.

Ice Cream Cake

1 package of oreo cookies (cream middle removed and discarded, rest of cookies crushed into crumbs) or one box of graham cracker crumbs.
1/2 c. butter, melted
Mix these two ingredients together and press into bottom of 13 x 9 pan. (Reserve a few crumbs to sprinkle on top of cake). Cover and put in freezer for 1 hour.

2 tubs ice cream (softened)
Stir ice cream and spread on top of hardened crust. Cover and put in freezer for 4 hours.

1 bottle of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup
Squeeze syrup on top of hardened ice cream. Freeze 4 more hours.

1 large container of Cool Whip (softened)
Spread Cool Whip on top of ice cream. Sprinkle remaining cookie crumbs on top. Freeze 4 more hours.

Let cake sit on counter for 30 minutes before cutting.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Correcting Bad Habits

It's not Riley's fault he has developed some bad habits. When a dog's owner lets these things go for so long without correction, the dog sees them as normal behavior.
Riley has several such bad habits that I have started to correct. The first one I am working on is having him wait patiently while I prepare his dinner.

The process of preparing his dinner involves grabbing his food bowl, pouring a half cup of dog food in the dish, adding about a tablespoon of water from the sink, swirling it around in the dish to wet the food and placing the dish on the floor. I do this twice a day.

As soon I as grab his dish, Riley starts his Tigger bounce. He jumps up and down until I walk over to the location where the bowl goes on the floor, then he turns around in a cirle two or three times and sits down until I tell him "OK". The circling and sitting are fine because he does wait for me to say "OK", but the bouncing, or jumping up and down, while I put the food in the bowl is very annoying.

Now when I get Riley's bowl, I tell him to sit and stay. It takes every ounce of his will to stay in that position while he hears those salmon morsels hit the metal bowl. If he gets up, I stop and tell him to sit and stay again. He has a hard time staying there when I move to the sink and turn on the water. His new training has been going on for several days. Riley is a fast learner, and nothing motivates him more than food, so I think there is hope.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Great Aunts

Carolyn and I took Aunt Mary to visit Aunt Nina on Monday. Aunt Nina is the widow of Aunt Mary's brother Eddy. Her memory is failing so she pretty much lives in the moment, which isn't a bad place to live if you are in a nursing home.

Aunt Mary was delighted to make the trip from her Cuyahoga Falls apartment to Mayfield Heights. Carolyn picked her up since it was more on her way, and I stopped at Panera to grab some lunch for us. We joined Aunt Nina in the nursing home dining room with our Panera sandwiches while she ate the day's selection of wedding soup and grilled cheese.

I gave Aunt Mary her scrapbook, and she was very surprised and happy to see that her photos were preserved. She took it home to show her friends.

While we were sitting in Aunt Nina's room chatting away, I asked Aunt Mary why she never lets us in her apartment. She has lived there 52 years, and I haven't seen the inside. She said she needs to do some spring cleaning, so I volunteered myself and my sister to help her do the job. It was a major breakthrough. She said we could do it! I was thrilled beyond measure. Carolyn just raised her eyebrows at me. It will be like that show American Pickers where the guys go out to houses and pick through all the stuff people have accumulated over the years to find treasures. I'm not sure we will find many treasures, but it will be nice to help Aunt Mary make multiple trips to the dumpster in the parking lot.

Aunt Mary continues to amaze us with her memory. At almost 88 years, she remembers things Carolyn and I have even forgotten. She's not afraid of advances in technology either. She was very interested when Carolyn told her she could go to the library and have the librarian help her set up an email account. When asked who would be sending her an email, she replied, "the garden club and the church choir".

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Patty's Blueberry Banana Nut Bread

When I was at Patty's house on Friday night, she served two things that I thought were delicious. One was Blueberry Bread and the other was Chicken Chili. I made both recipes today. Here is the Blueberry Bread recipe:

Blueberry Banana Nut Bread

1 c. sugar
1 c. mashed banana (2 medium)
2 eggs
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. plain or vanilla yogurt
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1 c. blueberries

Mix sugar, banana, eggs, oil, yogurt and vanilla with a mixer. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Mix in with wet ingredients. Stir in walnuts and blueberries by hand. Pour into a loaf pan sprayed with PAM or greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes. Check to see if done by inserting a knife in center of loaf.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Daily Jumble

Around our house, the daily Jumble is a daily game Don and Peter play. This one came from today's Plain Dealer. I cut it out before they had a chance to solve the puzzle. When they get to it, they will yell, "hey, who cut out the Jumble?" I will tell them they have to read my blog to find it.

Anyway, they don't even bother writing the answers in the little squares. They are so good at these puzzles they just rattle the answers off within 10 seconds. It's rare that they stumble on one. I have a more difficult time with them. It usually takes me several minutes just to unscramble one word. I often am completely stumped and have to ask Don what the first letter is. I don't know how they do it.

When Peter was in 4th grade, he was the king of Word Search in Mrs. Seigneur's class. Whenever she handed out a Word Search, Peter always finished first. There is something different about his brain. He was always good with patterns too.

In the movie, A Beautiful Mind,  Russell Crowe had to solve a complex encryption of an enemy telecommunication. While I was watching the movie, I couldn't help but think Peter might grow up to be like that. However, as the movie continued, and I saw what happened to Russell Crowe (or his character), I was hoping Peter wouldn't grow up to be like that. I think we will stick to daily Jumbles.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Daily Jumble

o D n                                  _ _ _

s i                                       _ _

y m                                     _ _

l i v t a e n n e                  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tennis Elbow

tennis elbow ten·nis elbow (těn'ĭs) n. A painful inflammation of the tissue surrounding the elbow, caused by strain from playing tennis and other sports. Also called lateral humeral epicondylitis .

Yes, my body is getting old. It seems I can't just go out and abuse my muscles and tendons like I used to and get away with it. I have inflammation in my elbow and pain in my hand. I have to ice it three times a day and take anti-inflammatory pills. I can't hit my forehand for awhile.

Before I got this bad, Don and I told Peter we would play doubles with him and Anna today. Peter said not to worry that I can't hit my forehand and I can't serve the ball. He said it would make the teams more equal. I guess Anna hasn't played much tennis.

I hate having to rest and ice my arm, but I think it's the only way to recover. I also need to figure out what caused it, so I don't get it again once I am well.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Laugh Until it Hurts

From left: Lisa, Peggy, Marge, Cindy, Debbie & Patty
Last night I got together with my high school cheerleader friends. Actually, only 5 of the 7 of us cheered together. We met Lisa and Marge in college, and they joined our get-together group. Patty had us over to her house. She has a lovely house. LeBron James used to be her neighbor until he moved to Miami. Patty cooked enough food for 30 people. The spread was amazing. She made chicken chili, rigatoni, spinach salad, fruit salad and a few desserts including blueberry bread.

From left: Carla, Patty, Cindy, Debbie, Peggy. I am in back.

We started the night by catching up on all that had transpired in the past year. We then moved into conversation about people we know. This was followed by some very funny memories. The one that made us all roll on the floor was a confession by Patty and Cindy. As cheerleaders, we held many car washes to raise funds for cheerleading camp. Without the help of the car washes, we wouldn't have been able to go. When Patty and Cindy were at Akron U, they wanted to go to Florida for spring break. They couldn't afford to do it, so they held a car wash! We laughed until we cried.

Before we left last night, I agreed to plan our next get together. We are going to do our first overnight trip. We decided to go to Columbus sometime in the next six months. Finding a date that works for seven ladies might be a bit of a challenge, but I can't wait!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sweetheart Cookies

Here is a special cookie to make for your sweetheart on Valentine's Day. The dough is peanut butter flavored and the topping is raspberry jam, so they are essentially a peanut butter and jelly cookie. They are special because of the heart shape on the top:

Sweetheart Cookies

1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light-brown sugar
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1 large egg
1/3 c. raspberry jam, stirred to loosen

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, then egg. Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture until dough forms. If dough is sticky, refrigerate 5-10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls (about 2 tablespoons each). Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheets. Dip a small juice glass in flour, then press balls into 1 3/4-inch rounds. Press hearts into centers using your fingertips. Refrigerate 20 minutes.

Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and reshape hearts using your fingertips or the handle of a wooden spoon. Fill indentation of each with a generous 1/2 t. jam to form a heart. Bake until cookies are firm, 6-7 minutes more.

Recipe from Martha Stewart Magazine

Thursday, February 10, 2011

200th Blog Post!

Today's post is number 200! I can hardly believe it. I used to print out posts 1-100, and now I am going to print out my second book.

I've been thinking lately about why I blog. It all started last June when I wanted to get some practice writing. I thought this would be a good way to challenge my brain to think of something to write about each day, and it has worked. Sometimes it is easy to think of a topic, and other days I have a difficult time. Once I have the topic, writing about it is easy.

Sometimes my blog seems like a journal, sometimes it seems more like a scrapbook. It contains thoughts from today and memories from the past. I don't know how many people read it, but there are more than a handful. I try not to write anything that will embarrass or incriminate friends and family. Hopefully those who read it are entertained, motivated and inspired, depending on the content.

It is only natural to worry that I will run out of things to say. Until that happens, I'll keep on blogging.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chosen by a Horse

Carolyn gave me this book for Christmas, and I took it to Florida to read. I was a little bit hesitant to read it because it had a picture of a horse on the front cover. You know what that means, don't you? It means the same thing as when there is a picture of a dog on the front cover of a book. Someone dies, and it is usually the one pictured. This makes me cry, and I try to avoid crying if I can.

The book is really a memoir of Susan Richards' life. She weaves what's going on with her horses in between what's going on in her life and what her childhood was like.

Susan already owned three horses when she rescued a mistreated horse named Lay Me Down. Even though Lay Me Down had a rough go of it, she was the sweetest horse Susan had ever known. Because of her resilience, the horse had a profound effect on Susan's life.

Chosen by a Horse is a great story, and it is extremely well written. No wonder is was a national bestseller. It's been out for several years (2006). I highly recommend it. Just make sure you are alone when you read the last few chapters. I happened to be on an airplane sitting between Don and a stranger. At one point, Don looked over at me and thought something was dreadfully wrong. My eyes were red and tears were streaming down my cheeks. I told him why I was crying, and he promptly went back to playing Sudoku on his iPhone. By the way, there is a sequel called Chosen Forever that also received great reviews. I'll have to look that one up soon.

Monday, February 7, 2011

That Was Easy

Once in awhile I will let Riley play with things he has no business playing with. If I don't watch him carefully, he can destroy and object within minutes. Sometimes I break the rules and pull out something to entertain him when he is bored.

I remember hiding some of the kids' toys when they were young, then bringing them out after awhile and they seemed like new toys. That's what I do to Riley.

One of these toys is an easy button from an office supply store. I bought it several years ago to set on my desk as a novelty in the library. I would let the students push the button after they checked out a book.

Riley didn't have any trouble learning how to make it say "that was easy". It works just like the bell he rings when he needs to go outside. He pushes the top with his paw, and it talks.

He presses the button over and over again until I can't stand it any longer. Then I pick it up and put it back in its hiding place.

The trouble is, I think he gets tired of listening to it as well. After awhile, he starts to chew it and growl at it. I assume he's trying to make it stop chattering the same phrase.

When I finally take it away from him, I say, "that was easy." I tell him to hide his eyes so he won't see where I put it. I'm not sure, but I think he peeks.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Last Time I Saw You

I didn't know anything about this book when I chose to read it. I guess the cover drew me in. I had read Joy School, Talk Before Sleep and Durable Goods by the same author.

By the end of the first chapter, I realized what the book was about: a 40th high school reunion. A number of characters were introduced and followed throughout the book. My favorite character was Mary Alice Mayhew, a girl who was rejected by her peers as a teen. She survived the ordeal, and she turned out to be a pretty nice person.

Her best friend in her adult life was an older gentleman (80's) who lived next door. He knew about her past, and when she told him she was going to the reunion, he offered to escort her in case anyone treated her like they had 40 years ago. He ended up being the life of the party until he had a heart attack and had to be rushed to the hospital.

I've been out of high school for almost 34 years, so I could relate to the characters' feelings. They were sad when they saw how many of their classmates had died. They were worried about how they looked in the mirror when they still felt like they were 18. Some had hopes that a high school sweetheart would be there and they would reconnect.

As the evening of the reunion wore on, I was glad to see the pretentiousness wear off and the conversations become real. People who would not have given each other the time of day in high school became friends. Looks didn't seem to matter so much anymore. They were bound together by common experiences.

This book made me think about my own high school classmates. I must confess, I haven't stayed in touch with many of them. I still see my cheerleader friends and a handful of others, but by and large, I can't remember most of them. While flipping through the pages of my senior yearbook, I could count only a handful of the 350 students I still keep in touch with.

Reunions have never appealed to me, although I did attend one around the 15th year. I don't think I would go to another. I can't explain how I got on top of that filing cabinet with a cast on my right leg or why I am holding the American flag.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Back to Reality

Today is the day we fly back home. When we arrive, there will be snow on the ground. The sun won't be shining. It will be cold. For the past few days we have been living in the only warm place in the USA.

All good things must come to an end, and our trip is no exception. The good news is that Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on February 2 this year, so we are expecting an early spring. I'm thankful for that! It won't be long before the robins come out, the daffodils sprout and we can see green grass again.

I am excited to find out how Peter's trip to Chicago went. I'm looking forward to seeing Riley tear around the house with happiness at our return. It will be good to sleep in my own bed with my own pillow. It's always good to go home.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What I Miss About Riley

When we go on vacation, Riley is always in competent hands. Carolyn is staying with him this week. She loves him just about as much as I do. I told her on Facebook yesterday to give him a kiss for me, and she said she draws the line at kisses. I said how about a hug, then? I think she agreed to that.

Since Riley is glued to my hip when I am home, I always feel like something is missing when I'm away. Here are a few things I miss about Riley:

1. I miss how he talks to me. If he wants something, he lets me know by going to the spot where the item is and whining until I pick it up. I usually tell him, "No, that's not for Riley", and I put it back.

2. I miss how he runs to the windows and looks back at me because he wants me to ask him if there is a chipmunk or bird or deer in the yard.

3. I miss how he cuddles next to me on the couch and keeps my feet warm.

4. I miss his little idiosyncrasies like barking at foil and sneezes and the tape measure.

5. I miss having him to alert me of intruders, even if they are next door or walking by in the street.

But most of all, I miss having him by my side all day long.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Golf in the Sun

There is a blizzard hitting Chicago and a winter storm warning in northeast Ohio, but it was sunny and 80 degrees in Naples, Florida today. I fee very guilty about that!

Because it was so nice today, Don and I played golf.  I tried to make it fun by selecting a bright orange golf ball from my mother-in-law's golf bag. My goal was to keep the same ball for all 18 holes. Unlike my companion golfer, I did not lose my ball even once. It did fly into a water trap, but it stayed close enough to the edge to retrieve. I must confess I did not play all 18 holes. I played the first nine and four on the back nine, so that was a total of 13. I just watched the other five holes.

Don played all 18 holes. He lost a few balls, and apparently his ball got dirty because he had to wash it twice in the ball washer. My ball did not get dirty. Even when it went into the swamp, it came out relatively clean.

I had planned on keeping score, but after I had a 14 on the first hole, I decided it wouldn't be productive. The best I can say is that I had a bogey on hole 16, and I had a one-putt once (and it was a long one). If I only had to count my putts, I could make par most of the time.