Friday, February 27, 2015

Vogue

Vogue, portada de mayo de 1917 by George Lepape
Vogue magazine was first published in the United States in 1892. The cover price was 10 cents. In October 2013, the magazine had a print circulation of 11.3 million. The magazine has come a long way since the fashion on the cover of the 1917 issue above. The March 2015 issue cost $5.99.

Why Vogue? I received a free copy in the mail this week. It just showed up. I had never really looked at a Vogue magazine, so I flipped through it. It wasn't like any magazine I had ever read.

Here's what the first half of the magazine consisted of:

91 full-page advertisements
A partial table of contents
68 full-page advertisements
A partial table of contents
25 full-page advertisements
A partial table of contents
10 full-page advertisements
A partial table of contents
48 full-page advertisements
Letter from the editor

On page 294 I found the masthead. I still hadn't seen one article. The last 300 pages of the magazine contained mainly advertisements interspersed with short articles.

It was exhausting to look through.

I had two thoughts after my perusal: 1) this magazine makes a LOT of money on advertisements, and 2) this magazine would be a digital nightmare.

I don't have to worry about it, because I won't be subscribing.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini was not as compelling a read as I had hoped. Halfway through the book, I wanted to quit, but by that time I was so committed I had to continue.

Fortunately, the second half of the book was more about Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker. The first half of the book was about the Civil War and the Lincoln administration.

I have to say that I did learn some things. I did not know who Elizabeth Keckley was, and now I do. She was born a slave and lived as a slave for over thirty years before purchasing her freedom.

As a free woman, she moved to Washington and began making dresses for prominent women. When Abraham Lincoln was elected, Mary Todd Lincoln sent for Elizabeth on recommendations from women in the town.

From that point on, Elizabeth made all of Mrs. Lincoln's dresses and she became her closest friend and confidante. After the assassination of President Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln moved to Chicago with her two boys. She asked Elizabeth to accompany her because she couldn't bear to be alone.

After a time in Chicago, Elizabeth returned to Washington and resumed her dressmaking business. Through a turn of events, Elizabeth published a memoir about her life (Behind the Scenes) to help refute the bad press Mrs. Lincoln was getting. The whole thing backfired, and the two women were never able to reconcile their friendship.

An interesting side note: A quilt that Elizabeth Keckley made from fabric scraps of Mrs. Lincoln's dresses was at one time donated to Kent State University and remains there to this day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Nanny Cam


We have a Nanny Cam for the purpose of spying on Riley. The contraption is surprisingly inexpensive ($30) and easy to use. 

You just plug it into the wall outlet, get an APP on your phone, and you're in business. From Don's phone, we can watch what Riley does. We can even snap a photo.

The only problem is that it can only monitor one room at a time.

So far, every time we have spied on Riley, he has been on the family room couch. In the above picture, he is upside down on the family room couch. It's difficult to make out, but that big ball of upside down fur is him.

I know he doesn't immediately head to the couch when we leave because there is wastebasket evidence that tells me otherwise. But apparently, after he makes his wastebasket rounds, he settles in on the couch to keep an eye on things while we are away.

He's such a good watch dog.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Easy Chili Mac


I loaded this dish up with so much cheese and onions that you can't really see the chili mac. And those onions were HOT. We had to pick them out. The recipe called for green onions, but I didn't have any of those. Next time I'll buy some.

This Chili Mac would be an easy dish to feed a crowd. All you have to do is have a box of macaroni on hand and purchase a family size container of chili from Wendy's.


Easy Chili Mac 

1 Family Size chili from Wendy's
8 ounces Elbow macaroni (half a box)
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup green onions, sliced

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and return to pan. Add chili. Cook over medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Serve with cheese and onions.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Books on the Nightstand

I have a new favorite Podcast: Books on the Nightstand. The two hosts, Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, are friends and colleagues who work as Book Reps for Random House.

The Podcast is not affiliated with Random House. They began the Podcast as a personal project. There are over 300 episodes already (where have they been all my life)?

I had a lot of cleaning to do around the house today, so I plugged in my earphones to my iPod and listened to five of the episodes. This made cleaning much more enjoyable.

I love the book reviews, and I also love that I can go to their website to find the show notes on all the books. As I am listening, I usually can't be writing notes at the same time.

I have about ten more books to add to my "Want to Read List" already.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Frigid

It was kind of cold this morning here in Chagrin Falls.

I was reminiscing yesterday about the year I graduated from high school (1977). I remember it being a very cold, snowy year in which we had a crazy number of snow days.

You never know if your memory is correct, but after I checked the weather records just now, I found out that the year 1977 holds the record for the most days below zero (20). So far, 2015 has nine.

Riley doesn't want to go outside, even to use the facilities. I have to push his rear end out the door. I can't say I blame him.

The good news is - tomorrow it is supposed to be a high of 36 degrees! We had better get out and enjoy it because it is not going to last long.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

I enjoy Anna Quindlen's non-fiction writing. Having read A Short Guide to a Happy Life, How Reading Changed My Life, and Living Out Loud, I thought I would try her newest book, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.

Like the other books I read, this one is full of essays on life. Anna is about five years older than I am but her life experiences are similar to mine. She lost her mother at a young age, had three children, and grew up in the Catholic church.

She writes about the importance of girlfriends, solitude, how the lives of women have changed dramatically during her lifetime, growing old, raising kids, and how her life would have been different if this or that had not happened.

Anna Quindlen has written a few fiction books as well, but I have not read any of these: One True Thing, Every Last One, Blessings, Black and Blue, and her most recent novel, Still Life with Breadcrumbs. I'll have to put one of these on my list.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sausage Pasta

This pasta recipe was very good. I made it exactly as printed on allrecipes but next time I would make a couple of changes. The spicy sausage was a bit over powering for us, and a whole package of spinach was over kill. So here is my adjusted version:




Sausage Pasta

1 lb. penne pasta
1 T. olive oil
1 pound bulk mild sausage
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 ounce) can low sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 t. dried basil
1/2 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, heat oil and sausage in a very large skillet over medium heat until sizzling. Reduce heat to medium and cook sausage, stirring and breaking up lumps with a spoon, until no longer pink. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened.

Add broth, tomatoes and basil. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to med-high and cook until sauce is slightly thickened. Add spinach, cover and simmer about 5 minutes. Add drained pasta and stir for about a minute. Sprinkle with cheese when serving.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Grand Cayman Island


For my 50th birthday, Don took me to Grand Cayman Island for five days. Just like our honeymoon, it was a surprise. He didn't tell me where we were going. I just had to pack my bag for "someplace warm." I was more than happy to get out of Cleveland in January to someplace warm. It didn't matter where the warm was.

He also surprised me by booking a room at the Ritz Carlton.

We walked around the town one day and of course I had to take pictures.

We went out on a boat to snorkel and swim with stingrays.

Here's one of the stingrays. I think I kissed this one.

Don snorkeled longer than I did because he is more brave.

It was a wonderful 50th birthday.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fierce Convictions

Although I had to plod through this book,  I now know all about Hannah More, a person who was deeply involved in abolishing the slave trade in England and who spent many years devoted to teaching poor, rural children to read.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More - Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior was recommended on one of the radio shows I listen to (Midday Connection). The author was interviewed on the show, and the book sounded good.

The foreword to the book by Eric Metaxas was  most enjoyable. He was pretty excited this book was written because when he did research for his book on William Wilberforce (Amazing Grace), he encountered Hannah More and thought to himself that someone should write a book about her.

Hannah More was born in 1745 in Bristol, England. She died in 1833, when she was 88 years old. She did not come from a well-to-do family, but she was very bright and her father was a schoolmaster. She learned more than most girls her age at the time, and as a young woman, she became quite well known for her writing throughout England.

After she became disillusioned by the lifestyle of the literary world in London, she retired to a quiet country home where she planned to remain isolated. Then she met John Newton and William Wilberforce. Through the funding of John Newton, Hannah and her sister Patty opened numerous Sunday Schools in rural areas to help with social reform, religious teaching and reading skills.

The later part of her life was spent working to help abolish slavery in England. The Slavery Abolition Act went into effect just after Hannah More died in 1833.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Twenty Fun Date Ideas


Some of these date ideas can be done in the winter, but some will have to wait until summer.


1. Go bowling. Low score wins.

2. Roast S'mores at the fire pit after dark.

3. Wine and cheese in the hot tub.

4. A friendly game of tennis.

5. Go to a coffee shop on a Saturday morning and create a bucket list together.

6. Restaurant hop your dinner. Appetizers at one place, dinner at a second place and dessert somewhere else.

7. Go on a day-long road trip.

8. Take a bike ride, stopping for lunch along the way.

9. Do a volunteer project together.

10. Cook a meal together.

11. Create a map of all the places you've been together.

12. Have a water gun fight.

13. Arrange a photo shoot of the two of you.

14. Stroll around a Farmer's Market on a Saturday morning.

15. Go to a drive-in movie.

16. Go roller skating.

17. Take a dance lesson together.

18. Attend a wine tasting at the local winery.

19. Cozy up on the couch for a movie marathon.

20. Build a snowman together.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Smoothie Packs


Yesterday, I decided to put together some smoothie packs to make morning smoothies a snap. It took me about 15 minutes to fill five quart size zip-lock bags full of spinach, bananas and frozen fruit and store them in the freezer.


This morning, I poured 2 cups of water and one pre-made smoothie bag in the blender. In about three minutes, I had a yummy smoothie that tasted like a slushy. Instead of water, you can add milk, almond milk, orange juice or any other liquid you like.

Optionally, add a scoop of vanilla protein powder at the end.


This made about three cups of smoothie. Wash out the quart size bag and use it again next time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chocolate Heart Cookies


Peter and Kendall made these cookies last year for Valentine's Day. They were very cute and very tasty.

I wanted to make them last summer one day, but I realized the heart-shaped candies are only sold this time of year. I made a note to stock up in February.

These Betty Crocker cookies are simple to make, and they are the perfect treat for your sweetheart.


Chocolate Heart Cookies

1 pouch Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix
3 T. vegetable oil
1 T. water
1 egg
2 T. sugar (for rolling)
36 Dove milk chocolate heart-shaped candies

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In medium bowl, stir cookie mix, oil, water and egg until dough forms.

Shape dough into 36 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately press chocolate candy into top of each cookie. Remove cookies from sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Girl on the Train

Like I said, I was not feeling well this week. So I sat in my cozy recliner and read three books. This was the third one.

Thrillers are not a typical genre I'm attracted to, but I thought I would try one out. The initial reviews on this book didn't sound too frightening, and it wasn't. There were a few tense moments, but overall, I could handle it.

The Girl on the Train was a page turner. I could not put it down. I don't want to say too much about it, or I will spoil the plot.

The main character, Rachel, is in a hopeless state at the beginning of  the book. She is a divorced, unemployed, alcoholic. So that she doesn't have to tell her landlord/friend she is out of a job, she rides the train to and from London every day as if she were still working.

The train always comes to a halt near the house she shared with her husband, so Rachel looks out the window to see what is going on  in her old neighborhood. Several doors down from her old house lives a young couple who seem like they have the perfect marriage. She imagines their names (Jess and Jason), their occupations, and everything about them. Then one day she sees Jess in the yard kissing another man. Not too much later, she finds out Jess has been killed.

Rachel gets involved with the investigation which includes a tangled web of infidelities. The good thing is she gets so wrapped up in finding out what happened to Jess (her real name is Megan) that she has to stay sober to concentrate.

Many twists and turns will keep you reading. It was a nice introduction to the thriller, but I don't think I'll get hooked on them. They might eventually give me bad dreams.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Pexels


I was so excited to learn about a website called Pexels this morning. It contains over 1,800 FREE photos. And the photos are the best quality I've seen on any of the free photo sites I've visited.

They add five new photos a day. They can be downloaded and used free of charge, and no attribution is required. Amazing!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Loads of Snow

We've been hit with a ton of snow the past couple of weeks. Riley's even having a difficult time getting into the yard to go potty.

Here he is on the front walk to give perspective to the enormity of it all.

I put a dog biscuit in the pile that the plow made in our driveway so Riley would climb up and get it.

It's going to be awhile before all this snow melts!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bittersweet

My mom wasn't much of a reader, but I remember one book she read and really loved. It came out the year I graduated from high school. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough was a huge success, and it was even turned into a TV mini-series in 1983.

The main reason I picked up Bittersweet was because it was by the same author. I never read Thorn Birds, but I thought if my mom liked it, I might like this one.

I researched the author just now, and I found out she died on January 29. That was less than a week ago. Bittersweet came out in August. Colleen McCullough was 77 years old.

This is a family saga that takes place in Australia after World War I and into the end of the Great Depression. The Latimer family has four daughters - two sets of twins born 14 months apart. The mother of Edda and Grace died in childbirth. Their father, the rector of St. Mark's Church of England, quickly married the family housekeeper, and Kitty and Tufts were born shortly after.

Each of the girls has a different personality, but they are as close as any sisters can be. When they are old enough, they all sign up to go into nurse's training at the local hospital and become the first registered nurses.

There are many love stories with good and bad decisions. Parts of the book got a little boring, like when she described what was going on in the government at the time. For the most part, I enjoyed the story and following the lives of the characters.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt is my book club's February selection.

I've been under the weather for five days, so I've done a lot of sitting in the recliner with my books. I read this one over two days. It was a page turner. About half time during the Super Bowl, Don looked over and commented, "You're really engrossed in that book. You haven't watched one minute of this game."

The main character in the book is a 14-year old girl named June who does not fit in with her peers. She spends a lot of time in the woods behind her school pretending to be in the Middle Ages. The only person who really "gets her" is her uncle Finn, a renowned artist who is dying of AIDS.

The story takes place in the late 1980s in New York City. June's parents are both tax accountants, so during tax season, June and her 16-year old sister Greta are left alone after school unsupervised. Greta has long rehearsals for the school musical, so after Finn dies, grief-stricken June forms a friendship with her uncle's partner Toby, whom she did not know existed beforehand.

Uncle Finn paints one last portrait of June and Greta before he dies. The name of the painting is "Tell the Wolves I'm Home." The painting ends up playing a large role in the book, but I did not understand the title he gives it. This book will make for good discussion come book club night.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Lazy Day


I'm not sure exactly when this photo was taken, but several clues tell me it was within two months of our wedding day.

1. We didn't have that old plaid couch from Don's bachelor days very long.

2. The briefcase on the chair was my wedding gift to Don.

3. The dogs look like they are about four months old. We got them when they were eight weeks.

4. Don is in shorts and flip flops. It must still be summer. We got married the last day of May.

It must have been a lazy day. All three of my boys were sacked out on the floor.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life

Twyla Tharp is a renowned choreographer who set the songs of Billy Joel to a musical on Broadway called Movin' Out. She choreographed many other shows as well. She also wrote a book.

The Creative Habit is a guide to making creativity happen. Whether you are an author, composer, artist or you just want to create new things, you can apply what she has learned through 50 years of dance.

What struck me most about Twyla Tharp is her work ethic. In fact, she says to be creative, you have to work hard. She is up at 5:30 a.m. every day and in a taxi on her way to the studio to workout for two hours. And she's no spring chicken. She then goes back home to get into her daily work routine.

She uses rituals to keep herself focused, and for each project she starts, she begins with an empty box. The box holds all the materials that she uses in creating each show. Sometimes she needs multiple boxes.

One thing I learned from this book is that you can't just sit around and wait for creativity to happen. The most creative people put a whole lot of effort into their work.