Monday, October 31, 2011

Back in the Day

This is the only photo I have of myself dressed in a Halloween costume. It was 1970, so I was 11 years old and in sixth grade. I was tall for my age.

In the back with me is my brother, Mike. He was in 8th grade - a little old to be out Trick or Treating, but a little young to be drinking a beer. In the front row from left to right are a friend named Cathy Crawford, my cousin Kathy, and my brother Patrick, who would have been in 4th grade. I am not sure where Carolyn was. Probably getting into trouble in another part of the house.

As you can see, we made up our own costumes back then. Mostly we were bums because that was an easy one to pull off. Just grab a shirt and some overalls from your dad's closet and you were good to go. I rolled my hair up in curlers, so I guess I was a bummy old housewife or something. Love the makeup too!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Don and I went to dinner last night with our friends John and Eva. We met at a quaint little restaurant called Mallorca on W. Ninth Street in downtown Cleveland. Mallorca specializes in Spanish and Portuguese cuisine.

I've never been to Spain or Portugal, so I didn't know what to expect when I looked at the menu. Over half the entrees were fish and seafood selections. I'd just had sea bass on Wednesday night, so I wasn't in the mood for fish. Instead, I chose chicken (pollo) stuffed with spinach, mozzarella cheese and red peppers.

When Don ordered frogs legs for an appetizer, I put my blinders on so my appetite wouldn't tank. I tasted John's broiled Spanish sausage (Chorizo A La Plancha), which turned out to be heavenly. Along with our entrees, we were served salads and huge plates of rice, vegetables and Spanish potatoes. The four of us barely made a dent in those.

 The food and service were fabulous at Mallorca. I'd give this restaurant five stars.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Made Pasties

It's been a Richards family tradition to serve a meat pie called "pasty." That's pasty with a short "a". Don's mom has made and delivered them to us a few times a year since we've been married. I always wanted to learn how to make them but never took the time until now. The thing that stopped me was the fact that the recipe involved crust, or dough. Remember, I have an irrational fear of dough.

You would think I'd have gotten my recipe from Donna, but I did not. My recipe came from an article in Real Simple magazine (May 2010). The author of the article wrote the book How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew. She described her first attempt at this dish as "the world's ugliest pasty." I figured I couldn't do much worse.

With sweat forming on my brow, I laid out all the ingredients and got to work. Peter was sous chef. I cut the butter into the flour while he chopped the potatoes into bite size pieces. Before I put the pies in the oven, Peter suggested I brush the pies with olive oil to keep them moist. This is the way he keeps his Pepperoni Bread from dying out. I complied.

Before sharing the recipe, I must give you some background into how these little pies got into the hands of Americans. They originated in Cornwall, England where they thrive to this day. The pasty came to the States along with miners from England. In fact, the dish was created especially for workers in the fields and mines. The pasty dough is crimped along one edge to create a handle to hold while eating. Miners would not be able to wash their hands, and they often had caustic substances on them. After eating the inside of the pasty, they tossed the crust to the Tommyknockers. Those were the little creatures who lived in the mines. They made creaky noises the miners couldn't explain. Feeding them crusts kept the Tommyknockers from doing bad things to the causing the mine to cave in.

If you want to see how a real Cornish Pasty is made, watch this video: How to Make a Cornish Pasty.


1 lb. sirloin or skirt beef, cut into small pieces
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 medium onions, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for rolling
1 1/4 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine beef, potatoes, onions, 1 t. of salt and 1/4 t. pepper.

Place flour, butter and 1 t. salt in large bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter, working until mixture resembles course meal, with a few pea-size lumps remaining. Add 2/3 c. ice water; mix with a fork and work with your hands until a dough comes together. If the dough is still crumbly, add more ice water, 1 T. at a time (up to 4 more T.). Do not overwork. Shape dough into 4 small disks and let rest for 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each disk into a 10-inch circle.

Divide beef mixture among the circles of dough, shaping the meat into a small loaf. Pull dough over to make a "D" shaped pie. Crimp edges shut. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amazing Grace

When Daniel played soccer for CVCA, I enjoyed arriving early to the games. Around 6:15, the boys would walk from the school to the track surrounding the field while bagpipes played Amazing Grace over the loudspeakers. The scene could bring tears to my eyes.

As soon as the boys hit the soccer field, they would transition into warm-up mode and sprint across the field. The music would change to something more upbeat as they prepared for the game ahead.

Years ago, I wrote a monthly column for my church newsletter. Each article featured a hymn and the story behind it. I remember the story of Amazing Grace. It was written by John Newton, a slave trader turned minister. After almost losing his life in a storm at sea, he called out to God to save him. He didn't stop trading slaves until years after this encounter, but he eventually became a opponent of the slave trade and fought to abolish it. Amazing Grace is one of the most moving hymns of all time, especially when accompanied by bagpipes.

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I'm found,
was blind, but now I see."

"What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" - Romans 7:24-25

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


You may notice a new icon at the bottom of each blog post today. I am very excited about this new discovery. If you've ever wanted to print a blog page, you have probably copied and pasted it into Word to print it out. Now you can get a very nice printout by using this icon. Give it a try!

Print Instructions:

1.  Click on the Joliprint icon at the bottom of the post. You will see options to Download PDF, Share on Facebook, Email, copy link, etc.

2.  Click on Download PDF (first option). At the bottom of the screen, you will see a question box asking if you want to open or save the post. Click Open (you can also save it if you want).

3.  A nicely formatted PDF document will appear on your screen to print!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina

For dinner tonight, I made Italian pasta with chicken. I had made it before, and all went well. It is very tasty. Tonight, however, I made a mistake. The recipe calls for a can of diced tomatoes, and I accidentally bought "chili ready" diced tomatoes. You can imagine the difference in taste. My Italian pasta turned into Mexican pasta in an instant. I didn't tell Peter, and guess what? He liked it! If you make it yourself, you can choose which way you want to go. I recommend the Italian version. The recipe comes courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis from the Food Network.

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina

1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta) - I used Ditalini
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. cubed chicken breast
1/2 c. diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 c. shredded mozzarella
1/4 c. chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
1 T. butter, plus more for buttering baking pan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, put olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add chicken.. Cook chicken 3 minutes. Add onion and garlic, stirring to combine. Cook until onions are soft and chicken is cooked through. Put chicken mixture in a large bowl. Add drained pasta, mozzarella, diced tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Place mixture into buttered 8 x 8 inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over top of pasta. Dot top with small bits of butter. Bake 30 minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Daily Docket

While poking around from blog to blog, I discovered the perfect daily to do list. It was created by a woman named Tsh Oxenreider who has a blog called Simple Mom. She has lots of great tips on her blog, but the one thing I really loved was her Daily Docket to do list.

At the very top of the form, she has a box titled "today's MIT's". These are three things that are the most important tasks for the day. If you get nothing else accomplished that day but those three things, you are in good shape. Those are your priorities.

On the top left, there is a box for writing down a scripture you might be memorizing. In the next section, you write down what's for dinner, log your water intake, check off if you've monitored your food intake and exercised that day. I like the little box for blog since I try to come up with a topic for my next couple of blogs ahead of time.

Then there is the usual list of things you want to get accomplished and a general plan for the day if you have appointments. The point is to fill this out the night before so your plan is set the next day when you wake up.

This is the best layout I have ever seen for getting a good picture of my day. Just thought I'd share it here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Doggie Dress Up

Riley is very cooperative when getting dressed. He will stand very still with his ears pinned back. I guess that means he is not sure what is going on, and he hopes it will go away soon. Katherine and I think he looks adorable. Don just rolls his eyes.

An article in the "Ask Dog Lady" column of the Plain Dealer on Thursday made me feel a little guilty. It was titled, "Halloween costumes are torture for dogs."

This expert, Monica Collins, says she's been around dogs long enough to sense that they're miserable in clothes. She says, "Woofers of all sizes are nudists by nature and want to wear their birthday suits on Halloween."

She might have a point. But look how cute he is in his "Bad Dog" costume! It's worth a few minutes of torture. Sorry, Riley.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

When I was in tenth grade, Mr. McKinney, my English teacher, assigned a research paper. I can't remember if there were any restrictions on the choice of topic, but I do remember not being able to decide on one. When you can't decide on a topic, your punishment is that the teacher assigns the topic for you. Mr. McKinney told me to do my research paper on "Japanese Internment Camps during World War II". It didn't sound like a very exciting topic. However, as I got into it, I was saddened and heartbroken for the people who had immigrated to the United States, had children who were American citizens, and yet were evacuated from their homes.

That is the backdrop for this book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. It is a lesson in American history, but more than that, it is a love story between a Chinese-American boy named Henry and a Japanese-American girl named Keiko.

They become friends at school in Seattle just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Their budding romance is threatened when Keiko and her family are suddenly whisked away to an internment camp. Henry finds a way to visit Keiko until she is moved further inland to Idaho. After that, he visits once and promises to never forget her. He doesn't understand why Keiko stops writing since he writes to her faithfully. Later he finds out that his father, who is vehemently against the Japanese, has been stopping delivery of his letters.

Half of the story takes place in 1986 just after Henry's wife, Ethel dies of lung cancer, and the other half of the story is set between 1942-1945.

I loved this book. I cried at the ending. I highly recommend it!

Fast Framed Art

I was looking for a picture to hang in my guest room. The color scheme is brown and green. When I couldn't find anything I liked, I decided to go to the fabric store and purchase a piece of fabric to match. Within 15 minutes, I had a piece of unique art.

Here's what you need:

Frame (mine was 11 x 17)
Piece of fabric to fit in the frame (I purchased 1/2 yard)
Glue dots
Scissors and pen


Remove the back of the frame. Use the frame insert to measure a piece of fabric just the size of the frame. Use a pen to trace on the fabric. Cut out the fabric. Iron the fabric so it is wrinkle free. Use glue dots to attach the piece of fabric to the frame insert. Put the fabric in the frame just as you would a photo. Reassemble the frame backing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

School Stuff Binders

Golf season is over, so now it is time to buckle down and work on college applications. This is a very tedious job. One that no sane person can work on for much more than an hour at a time. Peter's first deadline is December 1. It seems like a long way off, but you know how that goes.

While working on applications tonight, we needed to enter all of Peter's awards earned during high school. This can be hard to reconstruct if a parent has not kept at least a file folder for each grade. I went one step further a couple of years ago. I created a binder for each of my kids called "School Stuff". It came in handy tonight when we got to the awards section of the Common Application.

Here are some of the things that are included in each School Stuff binder:

End of the year report cards and Standardized test scores for each year

Artwork (only the best)

Award Certificates

Class photos

Interesting assignments, essays and journal entries

The kids love these binders. There is a tab for each grade (K-12).  Everything is one place, and I felt good about throwing away the boxes full of extra stuff they brought home all those years.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More Photography by Daniel

Daniel is loving his photography class. Each week he learns a new technique and has a new assignment. Here are a few of his recent photos:

Lily with her violin with some color splash.

Another portrait of Lily

Abstract of a spider web

Carnival ride at night - Hamilton, Ohio

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Surprise Party

My favorite uncle (Uncle Danny) got married 25 years ago. He was a bachelor until he was 50. Since he was a bachelor all that time, he spent a lot of time with me and my siblings when we were growing up. So we are close. He married Claudia after her first husband passed away.

When Claudia's daughters invited us to celebrate their anniversary, we were thrilled to join in. To make it more fun, it was a surprise party. I love surprises.

About 40 people gathered at the Sahara Grill in North Canton at 1:30. We were all in place when they arrived at 2:00. As you can see from the first picture above, they were truly surprised. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed a Lebanese buffet. Can't beat that for a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Senior Night

At the CVCA football game last night, all the senior athletes participating in fall sports were honored. Don and I got to walk out on the track by the football field with Peter and the rest of the golf team seniors.

From the left are Amy and John VanBuskirk with their son,William. Next are Don, Peter and Me. Then Maria and Ralph Criswell with their son, Daniel.

We were very proud parents! Thanks to my friend, Lynelle Cook, for being there with her camera!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Good Dog

Thursday night
I've heard of dogs jumping up to kitchen counters and stealing whole turkeys or steaks, devouring them before their owners knew what hit them. Riley isn't tall enough to reach the kitchen counter, but he can easily reach a coffee table.

A couple of weeks ago, Katherine fell asleep with half a banana sitting on a plate on the coffee table. Riley's favorite food in the world is bananas, with chicken a close second. So if ever he had the chance to steal his favorite food, that was it.

To our amazement, the half-banana was still on the plate. He let us know it was there by sitting by it and whining as soon as we got up, but he wouldn't take it himself.

Friday morning
So last night, Peter had three chicken nuggets left from his bedtime snack, and they were sitting on a plate on the coffee table. We all sat around discussing whether or not Riley would take those nuggets if we left them there all night. Katherine, Peter and I said he would not take them. Don was skeptical. He was sure Riley would eat them up while we were sleeping.

We decided to do an experiment. We left the nuggets there, warning Don not to eat them in the middle of the night and tell us that Riley took them. (He would do something like that.)

The three of us were right. He didn't snatch the food. He didn't forget they were there. As soon as we came downstairs, he went right to the table and started whining.

Here is our theory: Riley does not like to upset things. If his ball rolls behind an object that would tip over if he tried to get it, he won't get his ball. He knows that if he jumped up to get the plate, it would probably tip over and fall. He hates that. So he waits patiently for someone to hand over the goods.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Contemplating My Toes

As I relaxed in the recliner this morning with my Awake tea, I looked down, and my toes were staring back at me. Normally, I don't think much about my toes, but this morning, they earned my full attention.

As you can see,I have very, very long toes. If I didn't have such long toes, I'd wear a size 7 instead of 9.5. Not only are my toes loooooong, but my big toes are very fat. They are shaped like a spoon. How many people do you know who have knuckles in their toes? Not many, I am guessing.

So there you have it. Those are my toes. To make them feel better, I try to get regular pedicures with my favorite color of OPI polish. It is called "You Don't Know Jacques", in case you were dying to know.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Optimist

I'm married to a card-carrying member of the Optimist International club. In order to be a member of this club, one has to subscribe to certain beliefs, such as the following:

1. You must believe that the sun will come out tomorrow even if the weather forecast indicates 90% chance of rain.

2. You must believe that it will not snow until December even if it has snowed almost every November since the beginning of time.

3. And you must believe that the Cleveland Indians will win the World Series one year during your lifetime.

I guess it is a good thing to be married to an optimist. I'd rather be married to an optimist than a pessimist like me. I'm actually not a pessimist... just a realist. There is a difference. For instance,

1. I believe that the sun will not come out tomorrow if the educated weathermen tell me there is a 90% chance of rain.

2. I believe that it will snow before December if it has snowed by November almost every year since the beginning of time.

3. And I believe that the Cleveland Indians could win the World Series some day, but the odds are against it happening in my lifetime.

I agree with a man named Gil Stern (whoever he is) who said the following:

"Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Trails Again

We haven't been out riding for a few weeks. Our schedules have been kind of crazy. Since today was such a beautiful day, and we were both home this afternoon, we decided to load the bikes and go. With the leaves turning and falling off, it couldn't have been prettier. The path was covered with dry leaves that crunched under our tires. The colors were beautiful, and the air was fresh.

It's hard to explain the feeling I get when I hop on my bike. I get a rush of happiness. I feel like a kid again. Of course, after twelve miles, I realize I'm not a kid again. That's when the muscles start talking to me. That's when I talk back. I tell them to be quiet because I'm having such a good time.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Love You Best

Long ago, I cut out an Ann Landers column that touched my heart. It is a letter written by "A Mother" to her kids. I could have written something like it myself.

Dear First Born: I've loved you best because you were our first miracle. You were the genesis of a marriage and the fulfillment of young love. You sustained us through the hamburger years, the first apartment, our first mode of transportation and the 7-inch TV we paid on for 36 months. You were new and had unused grandparents and enough clothes for a set of triplets. You were the original model for a mom and dad who were trying to work the bugs out. You got the strained lamb, the open safety pins and the three-hour naps. You were the beginning.

Dear Middle Child: I've always loved you best because you drew a tough spot in the family and it made you stronger for it. You cried less, had more patience, wore faded hand-me-downs and never in your life did anything first. But it only made you more special. You were the one we relaxed with and realized a dog could kiss you and you wouldn't get sick. You could cross a street by yourself long before you were old enough to get married. And you helped us understand the world wouldn't collapse if you went to bed with dirty feet. 

Dear Youngest Child: I've always loved you best because while endings are generally sad, you are such a joy. You readily accepted the milk-stained bibs, the lower bunk, the cracked baseball bat, the baby book that had nothing written in it except a recipe for graham cracker pie crust that someone had jammed between the pages. You are the one we held onto so tightly. You are the link with our past, a reason for tomorrow. You quicken our steps, square our shoulders, restore our vision and give us a sense of humor that security, maturity and durability can't provide. When your hairline takes on the shape of Lake Erie and your own children tower over you, you will still be our baby.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Some days I am just so glad he doesn't do things like this any more.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dollar Store

I love the Dollar Store. It's the only store where you can be pleasantly surprised when the cashier announces your total. I stopped in this week to purchase a few things and spent $15.00. It was a pile of things that would have cost much more at Wal-Mart or Target.  I happened to be in Giant Eagle right after the Dollar Store, so I decided to compare prices there. Here's what I bought and the price difference:

Four greeting cards. Dollar Store: $2.00 (2/$1.00)  Giant Eagle: $7.96

Three gift bags. Dollar Store: $3.00   Giant Eagle: $8.97

Cleaning supplies.  Dollar Store: $7.00  Giant Eagle: $16.70

Plastic cups, salad tongs and Sharpie highlighters. Dollar Store: $3.00  Giant Eagle: $8.00

Totals: Giant Eagle - $41.63
             Dollar Store -  15.00

Savings:                       $26.63

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Scrambled Eggs

About twice a week, I have scrambled eggs for breakfast. They are fast and easy to make, are loaded with good protein, and very tasty. I'd like to share my method of making them will all of you:

Step 1: Get two bowls from the cupboard. Crack one whole egg and one egg white into one bowl. Use the other bowl for the shells and extra egg yolk. Use a fork to whisk the egg and egg whites together. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Step 2: Melt a sliver (and I mean a sliver) of butter in a non-stick pan. I could use PAM, but butter tastes and works better. Coat the entire bottom with a thin layer of the butter. Reduce heat to medium.

Step 3: Pour the beaten eggs into the pan on top of the butter. After a couple of seconds, begin lifting the edges of the eggs with a silicone spatula and push them toward the middle. It only takes about 45 seconds to cook the eggs. Make sure the heat isn't too high.

Step 4: Remove the eggs to an unused burner while they are still a little runny. They will keep cooking while you make your toast.

Step 5: Cut toast in half. Top each toast half with half the eggs. Serve with hot tea and fruit.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pathway of Pain

Every time I see my great aunt Mary, she hands me a bag or box full of photos, letters, death notices and other important ephemera. Once in awhile I will sift through it and find something interesting. I was sifting this morning, trying to locate some old photos that needed to be restored (for Daniel's photography class), when I came upon a card printed with the following message:
"If my days were untroubled and my heart always light, would I seek that fair land where there is no light?...If I never grew weary with the weight of my load, would I search for God's peace at the end of the road?...If I never knew wickedness and never felt pain, would I reach for a hand to help and sustain?

If I walked not with sorrow and lived without loss, would my soul seek sweet solace at the foot of the cross?...If all I desired was mine day by day, would I kneel before God and earnestly pray?...If God send no "Winter" to freeze me with fear, would I yearn for the warmth of "Spring" every year?

I ask myself this and the answer is plain: if my life were all pleasure and I never knew pain...I'd seek God less often and need Him much less, for God's sought more often in times of distress...And no one knows God or sees Him as plain as those who have met Him on the "Pathway of Pain."

I'm not sure who wrote it, but I like it, and it is so true.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pieces of Home

Today, I went around the house taking random photos of things. Some of these things have become permanent fixtures around here. So permanent we don't even notice them any longer. Here are a few of the photos I took.

This is my treasured antique card catalog from the Cleveland Public Library. I bought it at an antique store in Medina. It comes apart in five pieces. Good thing, because it is very heavy.

This is the BB gun that has been sitting in the corner of our breakfast room for at least ten years. It is only used for the killing of an occasional squirrel when Daniel's friend Brian comes over.

Three stuffed musicians squished in the corner of the living room. They are guarding the piano.

Riley's toy basket. He takes his toys out, but I've never seen him put one back in.

Just some stuff on my desk. A bowl full of paper clips, a Beanie Baby for the Cure, my Valley Christian Academy crock, etc.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Homecoming 2011

This is the year of lasts for me. My youngest child is a senior. We had our last first day of school, our last senior yearbook portrait, and tonight our last homecoming. There will be a long string of lasts up until the last graduation. Oh, and the last college send off. Don't make me cry.

Our whole family went to the homecoming photo session at Willliam's house. Katherine and Daniel tagged along. I was glad Daniel was there with his (I mean my) nice camera. I miss that camera. The little one just doesn't cut it sometimes. Between the two of us, we shot about 100 pictures. Six of them were pretty good. That's how it goes.

Peter and Anna

The golf guys

William and Daniel with their dates

I just love it when Peter smiles

It stopped raining, but they liked the added color of the golf umbrella