Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No Temptation

Long ago, I developed an aversion to ice cream. It happened around the same time I realized milk products did not agree with me. By process of elimination, I was diagnosed with Lactose Intolerance. After one too many upset stomachs, I gave up ice cream for good.

Now, you couldn't force it on me. I have no desire to consume it at all. It is such a great feeling to have one delectable treat that does not tempt me.

If only I could make this same strategy work with chocolate, cookies, and other sweets. I'd be set.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Whoopie Pies

This is a recipe from the cookbook I purchased while biking on Martha's Vineyard. Here's what the author says about Woopie Pies: "This Pennsylvania Dutch treat came to New England via a cookbook published by the creators of Marshmallow Fluff. Woopie Pies supposedly got their name because Amish children shouted "Whoopie!" when they found them in their shool lunch sack."

Here's what I say about them: "Don't make them unless you are having a party and can pass them off on someone else. They are too dangerous to have around the house!"

Woopie Pies

2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 T. baking soda
3/4 c. unsweetened Dutch Process cocoa powder
4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. butter, softened
2 c. 2% milk

Filling Ingredients:
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 small jar Marshmallow Fluff
2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper, or use nonstick but ungreased cookie sheets.

In a mixing bowl, beat sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla for about 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine baking soda, cocoa and flour. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with milk. Beat 3 minutes.

Drop cake batter by tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake 7-10 minutes until cakes spring back when lightly pressed. Cool completely.

For filling, beat the butter in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Add the sifted powdered sugar, fluff and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Spread between two cooled chocolate cakes.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

More Favorite Things

I just wanted to share a few more things that I think are wonderful.

This product is probably pretty toxic, but boy does it work. I consulted Carolyn (whose housekeeping skills rival Martha Stewart's) on how to get iron stains out of our bathtubs. We've been having trouble with our water lately, and it's wreaking havoc on the porcelain. This product is a miracle in a can. I thought we were going to have to throw the bathtub out with the bath water, but after using Bar Keepers Friend, the tub is pearly white once more.

SnackWell's peanut butter bars recently replaced the South Beach Diet peanut butter bars. The reason I love these treats is because they have just the right balance of protein and carbohydrates to keep me from getting hungry for a few hours. At 140 calories per bar, they are a great in between meal snack when I'm on the go.

CiBO pasta sauce is a homemade sauce we purchase at a local restaurant in Bainbridge. This is Peter's favorite pasta sauce, and if Peter will eat it, I will buy it.

I ended up with this peanut butter spreading knife after feeling sorry for a college student from church who was selling Cutco knives one summer. It turned out to be a great buy, along with the five Everyday knives I bought during the same sales pitch. This knife if the absolute perfect tool for speading peanut butter on a piece of bread. And it is pretty good at getting jam out of a jar as well.

Patty served these amazing tortilla chips with her White Bean Chili last December. I searched in vain for them for almost six months. Then they showed up at my local Heinen's grocery store one day. Hip, hip, hooray!

I can't go to bed at night until I have sipped my cup of "Calm" tea. This tea has become part of my bedtime ritual. It is soothing, and I think there is something in it that makes me want to close my eyes. It's probably all in my head, but who cares.

These Green Room composition books from Target are only $2.00. They are very pretty, have a soft cover, skinny lines, and my favorite part is they open up flat on the table.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Riley has a thing for bedskirts. He uses them as napkins after dinner and towels after getting squirted in the face with the garden hose. Lately, he has been using them to scratch his itchy back.

Remember his bite from Branson? It wasn't a simple bruise like we thought. Blood vessels in Riley's back were torn, and he developed a Seroma the size of a plum under his skin. The Seroma was a sac containing serum left over from the blood which had collected there.

After the Seroma was drained, a crusty patch about the size of a half dollar formed on Riley's back. It is like a big scab trying to heal. Scabs, when trying to heal, itch. That's one reason Riley has been kind of crazy with the bedskirts lately. The other reason is we have confirmed, after torturing him three months in a row, he is allergic to the flea medication we apply to his back.

Riley can be seen throughout the day running from bedroom to bedroom, rubbing his back along all the bedskirts. Katherine's bedskirt is white, so you can't see his hair on that one. However, the rest of the bedskirts in the house are brown or black. I don't have enough lint rollers to lift the daily mess.

This afternoon, Riley has a spa appointment at Petsmart. Furminator treatment is on the menu. Hopefully the bath will help loosen the scab and wash away the flea medication. Otherwise, the bedroom doors will remain closed for awhile.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The House on Millbrook Street

Some nights, when I dream, I am standing in a different kitchen. It is a small kitchen with barely enough room to turn around. The cupboards are crammed with pots, pans and recycled margarine tubs. I might leave the kitchen, walk through the family room and into my bedroom in the front of the house. The bunk beds are against one wall, and the closet is full of clothes. My clothes are mixed in with my sister's clothes. In my dreams, I am usually cleaning out the closet or making the beds.

I don't know what these dreams mean, but every detail of the house comes back to me. I lived in this house the first 24 years of my life, so the details are pretty ingrained in my brain. Up to six of us lived in the house at one time. It had two bedrooms downstairs and one bedroom upstairs. The only bathroom was on the first floor. We didn't have air conditioning, a dishwasher, or an attached garage. It didn't take long to mow the lawn, and I could see into the next door neighbors' windows without binoculars. I couldn't get lost in this house, and that was comforting.

Our house was part of the Castle Homes development in Akron. The developer's last name must have been Castle, because the homes were far from looking like castles. They were all small bungalows, tightly packed in rows. I didn't mind that our house was small, because everyone I knew had a small house, too. That was just the way it was.

One of these days, I am going to go back to the house on Millbrook Street and ask the current owner if I can walk through the inside. I just want to see it one more time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Croissants From Scratch

I finally cashed in on one of my Christmas gifts tonight. Katherine had given me a gift certificate for a cooking class that we would attend together. Tonight was the night we were treated to instruction at the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking. Our chef instructor was Bennett Davis of Appetite Deli and Bakery in Lyndhurst.

The recipe is too complicated to share with you here. We need to actually try it at home first and refine it...if we dare. Katherine insists we do it immediately so we don't forgot what we learned. I'd like to wait a couple of years to let the information soak in.

Our slab of croissant dough.

With our dough, we made Classic Croissants, Chocolate Croissants, Ham and Cheese Croissants, Pepperoni Rolls, Cinnamon Rolls and Flaky Twists

We sampled a few, but if you had seen how much butter went into this dough, you would understand why we didn't gobble them all up!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Undercover Begging

He's so sly. He thinks we can't read his mind. He acts so nonchalant.

But we know what he's up to. He can't fool us.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett was an excellent read. Katherine and I read it simultaneously this summer. I had it on my Kindle, and she had a paperback. After we were finished, we decided to see the movie together when it came out.

Today was the day. We went to the 1:00 matinee. The movie was very good as well. I sobbed through the movie, and I don't remember doing that with the book. Katherine said it was because they play sad music when something sad happens. I think maybe it was my hormones.

I would highly recommend reading the book and seeing the movie. If you only see the movie, you miss a lot of detail. If you only read the book, you miss seeing the characters come to life.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi during the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, The Help gives readers insight into the contrast between white and black cultures at the time.

Skeeter, a 22-year old recent college graduate, returns home with a desire to write something that will make a difference. After a short time trying to participate in Junior League activities with her hometown friends, she realizes how different her perspective is regarding the help. Skeeter was extremely fond of her own maid, Constantine, who raised her and mysteriously disappeared while she was away at school.

Skeeter collaborates with two maids to begin the story of what it is like to be "the help". In order to get her manuscript published, Skeeter needs to have at least twelve more maids agree to tell their stories. There is great danger involved in speaking up about their white employers, so the others will not participate until a boy is killed and a maid is sent to jail.

The book eventually gets published because of the courage displayed by Skeeter and the Mississippi maids.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pooch Pick-Up Pouch

Riley likes to poop when we walk. Well, I don't actually know if he likes to poop, but he usually does. As a responsible pet owner, I bring a bag for pick up.

There was one time, however, when I forgot to grab a bag.  I was  far enough down the road that I didn't want to turn back. I decided to take my chances. Sure enough, Riley did his business in the yard three houses down. I made a mental note to go back and pick up later. But since my mind can be like a sieve sometimes, I forgot.

Unbelievably, the next day, someone left a paper bag with dog poop in our mailbox! How disgusting! How rude, I thought. Did someone see us leave the dirty deed behind? Even so, that wasn't nice.

I can't tell you how many times I have headed down the driveway since then only to realize I didn't grab a bag. I don't care how far away I am, I always go back.

To eliminate the inevitable U-Turn to retrieve a bag, I recently purchased a handy device that hooks on Riley's leash. It holds a roll of 15 bags that are dispensed through a hole in the pouch. No longer do I need to worry we will be caught unequipped.

Now, to all those other people who don't care to bring along a bag...what's your problem?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rabbit Ears

When Becky, Riley and I were finished walking this morning, Becky said, "Riley has such a sweet face." She added that even though his ears did not stay tipped like a Sheltie's ears are supposed to, he still looks cute. Then she reminded me of how big his ears used to be. She said he had grown into them.

That comment made me look back at some pictures from 2009 when Riley was about five months old. I had to see how bad those big ears were. It sure gave me a laugh! He HAS grown into them!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Fine Art of Book Covering

I am very experienced in the art of book covering. I covered thousands of books during my volunteer and professional days at the library.  So, when Peter comes home from the first day of school with a stack of books that need to be covered, I don't even blink and eye. Some people break out in a cold sweat at the mere mention of the book covering assignment. Not me.

The library books were covered with sticky contact paper or a clear plastic wrapping. Peter's books are covered in a very special way.

Book Covering 101:

A few weeks before school starts, ask for paper bags when grocery shopping. Paper bags are a very durable book wrap.

Cut the paper bag open, then cut it to measure two inches larger than the book when wrapped around. Fold up bottom edge about two inches. Lay the book on top, making sure the grocery store name is on the inside. Draw a line where the top of the book sits. Fold the top edge over at the line.

This is the hard part. Fold one side edge over about two inches. Tuck the book inside the folded corners. Tape the ends, making sure you don't tape the actual book, only the paper bag.

Hand over the stack of covered books to be decorated with markers. Wasn't that easy?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Granny Tour

Our nephews from Boston were here for two days. It was the first stop on their "Granny Tour". Grandma Richards was delighted to see Ben and Will. When they leave tomorrow, they will go by way of Toronto to see Grandma Pepall.

We wanted them to do a fun tourist activity while they were here, so yesterday, we took them to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, then out to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Before all that, Don drove us around downtown Cleveland, pointing out all the special sights. We even took a tour of the Flats and saw the filming site for the upcoming Avengers movie.

It was a lot of fun having them visit. All of us will miss them..especially Riley...because he loves having more people around who will throw his ball.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Big Yellow House

College move in day went very well. It's the first time in five years I did not cry upon departure. By the time we left for home, Daniel was all settled in and six of the eight roommates had arrived with their stuff. It was beginning to look like home.

The only bad thing about the entire day was the beeping noise we had to live with for four hours while driving to Oxford. Daniel's grandma dresser was too big to fit inside any of our cars with the back hatch closed. It fit in my car the best, so we drove it. Little did we know that the warning signal does not go off until you shut the door.

There was no turning back and no ear plugs. I resorted to stuffing Kleenex in my ears for the duration of the trip. I've decided that if I am ever tortured, I will tell them anything they want to know, just as long as they make it stop!

The House

The grandma dresser was very heavy

All moved in

Friday, August 12, 2011

Strange Sightings

Yesterday, I asked Don if he might be able to replace a couple of toilet seats in the house. As usual, he got right on it, drove over to Home Depot, and put the new seats on.

I'm not going to say anything about where he put the old ones because I am a nice wife who does not complain, especially when my husband does nice things for me.

But I won't blame you if you decline my next dinner invitation.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lemon Basil Chicken-Pasta Salad

You don't have to ask me twice if you can make dinner around here. My answer would always be, "Hallelujah!"

 Josh is in town, so he and Katherine wanted to make dinner. I said, "knock yourselves out, and wake me when it's ready." Actually, I just quietly retired to my bedroom, shut the door, got comfy in my rocker and put my feet up. I tried not to dose off.

Here's what they made, and I share it with you because it was delicious. Katherine made this at college last year many times. It is from the Betty Crocker Cooking Basics cookbook. You can eat it warm or cold. This recipe serves 4, so they doubled it.

Lemon-Basil Chicken-Pasta Salad

1/2 t. salt for cooking pasta (if desired)
2 c. uncooked rotini pasta (6 oz.)
10 asparagus stalks
1 clove garlic
5 oz. cooked chicken
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
2 T. olive oil
1 T. grated lemon peel

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding salt if desired.
Cut asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces (discarding tough ends)
Add asparagus to pasta cooking water during last 2-3 minutes.
Peel and finely chop garlic.
Cut chicken into1/2-inch cubes to measure about 2 cups.
Tear basil leaves lengthwise into narrow strips.
Pour pasta and asparagus into strainer and drain. (Rinse with cold water and drain again if serving cold.)
In a large bowl, toss pasta, asparagus and chicken. Stir in garlic, basil, cheese, oil and lemon peel.
Serve immediately (hot), or cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1-2 hours if serving cold.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

I did a terrible thing. I read book two in a series before I read book one. I only did it because the library was out of book one at the time. This would drive my friend, Becky, crazy. It didn't bother me much until I realized that each book in this series begins where the last one left off. Oops.
This series came out long ago (1998). I remember it was popular then, but for some reason, it didn't appeal to me. I'm glad I waited to get into it because the books were published over a period of 14 years. I might have lost interest.

Tears of the Giraffe is book number two in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I enjoyed it so much, I plan to go back and read book one and possibly the other ten books as well.

I love the main character, Mma Ramotswe, who owns the Detective Agency. She loves Botswana and its people, and she tries to do her job in the kindest way possible.

In this story, she becomes engaged to a local mechanic, plans to be the adoptive mother of two orphans, solves a case involving a missing American man, and promotes her secretary to assistant detective.

This book, and I'm guessing the whole series, is well worth reading if you haven't already done so. Start with book one, even if you need to get on the waiting list.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2011 Varsity Golf Team

The 2011 CVCA golf season began yesterday with the 3rd annual CVCA Invitational. Twenty-two varsity teams from around the Akron/Canton/Cleveland area participated. Don and I helped out with the tournament, and I had a chance to capture four out of five of the varsity golfers on film (digital film, that is).

Peter Richards, senior

Daniel Criswell, senior

William VanBuskirk, senior

Bowe Andrews, freshman

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mini Bread Loaves

These mini bread loaves are adorable. The pan is similar to my special brownie pan, but there are 8 large compartments instead of 12 small ones. Here is the link to find the Mini Loaf Pan.

I found the recipe for Whole Wheat Banana Bread on the Pioneer Woman site. It looked pretty healthy, and we all agree it is very tasty for being so healthy. This pan would work with most quick bread recipes.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c. Canola Oil
1/2 c. Honey
2 Eggs
1   6 oz. cup of vanilla yogurt
3/4 t. Baking Soda
1 t. Kosher salt
2 c. Whole Wheat Flour

Cream bananas, oil, honey, eggs and yogurt. Add vanilla. Combine soda, salt and whole wheat flour in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix, but don't over mix.

Pour batter into mini loaf pan and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. You can also use a regular size loaf pan and bake for 45-60 minutes.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thundershirt Update

Riley's Thundershirt is working great during thunderstorms. It calms him down, and he doesn't mind wearing it. Since Don was in the pool and Riley was in the house getting agitated about it, I decided to try his Thundershirt poolside.

I got Riley all suited up and let him out the door. He seemed to be calm at first, but it didn't take long for him to get going.

First, he ran around the pool in a clockwise direction.

Then he unwound himself in the counter clockwise direction.

Once in awhile he would stop to give Don's finger a kiss. But for the most part, he ran around like a crazy dog. I cut him off after five minutes so he wouldn't overheat or hurt his paw pads.

The Thundershirt isn't going to work out by the pool. Plan B is to buy a doggie life jacket and toss him in.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lebanese Food Fair

Today is the first Saturday in August. More importantly, it is the day of the annual Lebanese Food Fair. Katherine, Daniel, Lily and I met Carolyn and Laura there for lunch.

The event is a fundraiser for the church where my mom was a member. Some of her cousins, her brother, and various old neighbors still attend.

I try to control myself at the fair because it would be easy to go overboard and eat 3 pieces of kibbee, six rolled grape leaves, pita bread, and my favorite dessert (ka'ak). But then I'd have a belly ache. So I shared my food.

The highlight of the afternoon was sitting with Uncle Danny and Dr. John (my mom's cousin and my childhood dentist.) Uncle Danny and Dr. John are cousins who grew up together, and they have lots of stories to tell about life during the Great Depression. They lived in an area where many Lebanese immigrants had settled near Taylor Street in Akron.

Dr. John (John Massoud) is on the left. Uncle Danny is on the right. They look pretty good for near-80, don't they?



Katherine and I bought these aprons

Daniel wanted to get one of these "just for decoration"

Friday, August 5, 2011

Party in Perry

I love garage sales...especially when they are not at my house. Searching through other people's junk to find hidden treasures is my idea of a great afternoon.

Pam has these friends she calls "The Perry Sisters". I think there are five of them. I met some of them today because the big sale was at one Perry sister's huge farm house in Perry, Ohio. The Perry Sisters seem like lovely ladies who would be lots of fun to hang out with.

Pam, Carol, Katherine and I went to the sale. We didn't have anything we were looking for in particular, but that's how it usually is with garage sales. You wander around not really looking for anything until you spot something you have to have. We did find a few things to take home, but here are a few things we passed up:

The unicycle. I considered trying to step up my biking skills by going with one wheel instead of two.

The leather and snakeskin cowboy boots. I considered buying them to use as a decoration in the Colorado condo. They were huge (men's size 11).

The Erector set. I only considered this because the boy on the front looks just like Don when he was that age.

Pam almost invested in this cute jacket that was made to look like newsprint. I think she would have purchased it, but it was a little too big. She's checking things out in a mirror that was also for sale.

Carol was tempted by this SCUBA suit, but it just wasn't her color.

Here's what I purchased:

 Steak knife set for Daniel's bachelor pad - $1.00
 Beatles easy guitar sheet music book for Peter - $1.00
 Golf driving range ball bucket for Peter - $1.00
 Olivia Newton John LP for Peter - 25 cents
 Lawrence Welk LP for Peter - 25 cents
 Bottle for Katherine - 25 cents