Monday, February 29, 2016

True Grit

When I was 12 years old, attending Immaculate Conception Catholic school, the nuns brought in True Grit with John Wayne to show on movie day. Looking back, this seems like an odd selection.

I don't remember anything about the movie, and I haven't seen it since. I also have not seen the 2010 remake with Jeff Bridges. But I just finished reading the classic novel by Charles Portis, published in 1968.

Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the first person account of 14-year-old Mattie Ross's quest to avenge her father's murder in the late 1870's. She travels from Fort Smith, Arkansas deep into Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma).

Mattie hires Rooster Cogburn, a federal marshal with grit to accompany her and bring the coward who killed her father back for justice.

Mattie's dialogue is straight-faced but funny. Nothing trips her up. My favorite line in the book is on page 82. Rooster is recovering from a night of too much drinking, and Mattie finds him still in bed at 10 o'clock in the morning. "He asked me to bring him some coffee and I got a cup and took the eureka pot from the stove and did this. As he drank, little brown drops of coffee clung to his mustache like dew. Men will live like billy goats if they are let alone."

That just cracked me up. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Academy Award Night

Tonight is the night we all find out which movie wins best picture of the year. I'm voting for Bridge of Spies because I think it is the only one I actually saw.

Daniel and Heidi are at an Oscars party. Heidi sent me this picture of her "Red Carpet Date." I know Peter is watching at school with his friend Andrew who loves movies. And I am sure Katherine and Josh are watching somewhere in Indiana. Don and I are on the couch, but I took a break to do this blog post.

May the best picture win.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

New England Clam Chowder

I borrowed Kitchen Gypsy by Joanne Weir from the library this week. It's a new cookbook by the host of PBS shows Joanne Weir's Cooking Confidence and Joanne Weir Gets Fresh.

The first recipe that caught my eye was her New England Clam Chowder on page 15. It is simple to make and Don and I really liked it. I can't eat too much of cream-based soups, so I had half a bowl. Don requested that I make the broth a little thicker next time. That would be easy to do by cutting down on the water.

New England Clam Chowder

2 T. unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion 
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cans (3.5 ounce each) chopped clams in clam juice
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Add 2 cups water, the potatoes, and the clams and their juice, bring to a boil, and adjust the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Pour in the evaporated milk and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed individual bowls.

Serves 6

Friday, February 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, Pam!

Happy birthday to my fun-loving sister-in-law, Pam, who is just a kid at heart. I have her to thank for getting me on a bike again after 35 years. And she is one of my most faithful blog readers.

Hope you are having a wonderful day!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Life in Numbers


1 - The number of times I've said "I do"
2 - The number of dogs that will be following me around all next week
3 - The number of sweet children God's blessed me with
4 - The number of months until July
5 - The number of bathrooms in my house
6 - The number of books I am currently reading
7 - The number of cookies I shouldn't have eaten today
11 - The number of nieces and nephews I have
16 - The number of countries I've been to
25 - The number of pounds I want to lose by July
57 - The number of years I've been alive
1,455 - The number of posts on my blog
10,855 - The number of days I've been married (approximately)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ahhh! Massage

Katherine giving Don a massage
Ever since I was in Florida, my neck had been very sore and I was getting headaches every day. I know it was from sleeping on a different bed with a different pillow for 12 days.

So I finally made an appointment at Alicia's Massotherapy which is not far from my house. I had been wanting to try them out for some time anyway.

The young woman who greeted me to do my massage was teeny tiny with a baby belly about to pop. I was a little disappointed because I didn't think she'd be able to press hard enough on my neck to make it feel better.

Boy was I wrong! She gave me the most wonderful therapeutic massage. She spent 45 minutes concentrating on my neck and back. I walked out of there feeling like a new woman.

The next day, I was a bit sore from how hard she pressed, but on the second day, my neck was back to normal, with all headaches gone.

It's amazing what a good massage can do.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Literary Matchmaking Podcast

My new favorite podcast is "What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy.

On the show, Anne interviews a guest who tells about three books they love, one book they hate, and what they are currently reading. Based on their likes and dislikes, Anne recommends several books that they might want to read next.

There are seven episodes so far, and new episodes come out on Tuesdays.

Here are some books I've added to my "to read" list from listening to the podcast:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Just Mercy by Bryon Stevenson
A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
11/22/63 by Stephen King
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The X-Carve

Peter is home on break from school this week, so among other things, he spent his days assembling his X-Carve machine. It came with a million little pieces.

I have to say, I am very impressed with his patience, diligence and skill in putting this machine together.

Altogether, it took him about 20 hours to assemble.

So what does an X-Carve do? It can carve designs into wood, plastic and metal. The designs are transferred from software on your computer to operate the machine.

Ready for a trial run!

And it worked!

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Pilot's Wife

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve was published in 1999. It's been so long I can't remember, but I think Carolyn gave it to me for my birthday around that time.

I finally read it to meet the requirement of "a book you own but have not read" on the 2016 Reading Challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Here's my take on it:

- It sucked me in. I read it in two sittings.
- About three-quarters of the way through, I thought I had the plot all figured out, but I was wrong. I think my ending would have been better.
- I hope Carolyn didn't read it because it won't do much for my Florida trip cause.

The pilot's wife is a woman named Kathryn Lyons. She's married to Jack, the pilot. He's sort of a shady character, but she doesn't see it. They have a 15-year-old daughter named Mattie whom Jack adores. But his marriage to Kathryn has been waning.

One night a knock at the door gives Kathryn the news that Jack's plane went down off the coast of Ireland. I don't want to spoil it for you in case you haven't read the book, but suffice it to say that Kathryn learns a great deal about Jack during the investigation of the crash.

I'd give the book a B rating just because I didn't like the way it turned out and I didn't think it was very believable. It's a fast read, so if you need something to get your mind off something else, read it. Not recommended for Carolyn.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Valentine's Day Crepes

I've never made crepes, and Don loves them - at least when we are in France. So I wanted to see if I could make them for him. Peter and Kendall enjoyed them too.

The basic recipe is from the Food Network, courtesy of Alton Brown. These crepes are foolproof, because I made them perfectly the first time.

We stuffed them with bananas, powdered sugar and Nutella. Don really wanted something caramel, but I hadn't thought of that. Next time!

Crepes
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
3 T. butter, melted
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla

Put everything into a blender and blend it up until smooth. Pour the batter through a sieve to remove any lumps. Place in a large measuring cup, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to overnight.

Melt a little butter in a non-stick crepe pan or frying pan. Pour a thin layer of crepe batter in pan and swirl to even it out. Cook on medium heat until edges start to brown and the crepe releases from the pan. Slide a silicone spatula or pancake turner underneath the crepe and quickly flip it over to the other side. Cook for an additional 10-20 seconds.



Remove crepe to a plate and add your favorite ingredients (powdered sugar, Nutella, bananas, peaches, strawberries, ice cream...) the possibilities are endless.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I finally convinced Carolyn to fly with me to Florida in April. Actually, she never gave me a definitive answer to the question.

But she didn't say no, so I booked the trip. A sister weekend. Hooray!

Carolyn thinks she has aviophobia (fear of flying), but if she's never done it, how can she know?

I promised to hold her hand and let her sit in the aisle seat in an exit row with more leg room. I told her if she closes her eyes and puts some ear buds in with a good book, she won't even know where she is. The flight is only 2 1/2 hours long.

I understand fears. I have a few of my own - like bees buzzing around my head. So I sympathize.

I know this is going to be a pleasant journey, and after it's all over, "Oh, the places she will go!"

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Linguine and Clam Sauce


Pam shared this recipe with me about a month ago. It's been on my back burner until tonight because I was out of town. The recipe is from her neighbor (Jack) who is a very good cook. Pam is helping him create a cookbook. Lucky her - she gets to visit him every time he makes a new recipe. She takes photos, writes the recipe down, and best of all, she gets to sample the goods.

When she told me about Linguine and Clam Sauce, I was intrigued. It sounded simple, and it's just the kind of dish Don loves. I don't mind clams either.

I can testify that this recipe was simple to make and it was delicious. Parmesan cheese was optional, but I really wish I had some on hand. It would have been the crowning touch.

Linguine and Clam Sauce
2 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams
2 (6.5 ounce) cans chopped clams
1 lb. dry linguine
1 fresh lemon
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 stick butter
Flat leaf Italian parsley (should measure 1/2 cup when chopped)
Optional: 1/4 cup Half-n-Half or whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Open and drain clams, reserving all juice in a separate bowl.
Squeeze half a lemon over clams and the other half over the clam juice.

In a large saucepan, add olive oil and garlic. Saute until garlic is softened.
Add clams, salt and pepper. Continue to saute.

Add butter and simmer 10-15 minutes.
Add some fresh grated lemon zest.

Chop parsley (DO NOT USE dried parsley!!!)

After butter melts, add clam juice, then parsley.
At this point, add Half-n-Half or milk if desired.

Simmer 30 minutes.

Cook linguine according to package directions. IMPORTANT: Reserve 1 cup of pasta water when draining pasta. Drain pasta then add cooked pasta to clam sauce. If needed, add reserved pasta water to mixture as needed (I didn't need to add the pasta water).

Optional: Upon serving you can top with grated Parmesan cheese (highly recommended).

Monday, February 8, 2016

Speeding Up

When Daniel was in elementary school, he could not run very fast. He was always the last one on his team to complete the mile on the Saturdays his soccer team was required to run.

Then something happened to him when he got to high school. He started to work out and he started to practice running. Pretty soon, he was one of the fastest players on the soccer team.

His senior year, he was so fast he actually ran on the track team. 

You can improve if you work at it. Maybe my 5K time can go from 45 minutes to a half hour in time for the VCA "Run Like It's Recess" 5K on April 30. Or maybe I'll just ride my bike.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mini Frittatas

This is a great make-ahead breakfast that can be customized to whatever foods you have in your refrigerator. I used a silicone muffin tray I bought at Michael's so the eggs would slide out easily. I still had to spray the cups with PAM.

l

Mini Frittatas

6 eggs
2 T. milk
6 cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup spinach
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray muffin cups with cooking spray.

In a large measuring cup, whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Place two cherry tomato halves in each muffin cup. Add some spinach and cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly into the muffin cups. Top with more cheese if desired.

Bake 20 minutes. Let frittatas sit 10 minutes after coming out of the oven. Turn muffin pan over and pop them out. Will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Riley's Exercise

Riley is a multi-talented dog. He can walk on the treadmill and spin a ball at the same time. Not really! Here, he is trying to get the physio ball loose from the place where I wedged it so he wouldn't annoy me while I exercised. But with Riley, where there's a will, there's a way.

He kept pawing at it until it came free.

Then he went crazy rolling it around the room.

Until he backed himself into a corner.

And I secured it in a higher place so I could get on with my day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fortunate

The other night I flew home from Naples on an 8:30 p.m. Frontier flight. I was in boarding group 1, so I got on the plane early, found my aisle seat, stored my carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment, and sat down.

Time went by, and the two seats next to me were still empty. As each new group of people came aboard, I braced myself for the inevitable having to get up and let someone in my row. But, I had the great blessing of being alone after the cabin door was closed. Hooray!

It wasn't long before my attention was drawn to the seats across the aisle and one row up. A man in his 40's was sitting in the middle seat and a woman in her 60's sat down next to him in the aisle seat. I could tell they didn't know each other from their initial conversation. The man seemed like he'd had a few drinks, and the woman sounded like she had been around the block a few times.

For the first hour of the flight, they talked and laughed. He talked very loud. She put up with him and even showed him pictures of her kids, grand kids and dogs on her phone. But after an hour, she had heard enough and pulled out her iPad and started playing Solitaire. He kept on talking. He was so loud I couldn't concentrate on reading my book. I don't know how she could play her game. She just kept on saying, "Yeah, yeah," without turning to look at him.

I was just about ready to tap her on the shoulder and tell her she could come sit next to me (that's how bad it was), when I heard her say, "You need to take a nap." And just like that, he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

What got me the most was that the window seat was empty and the man never moved over to give her some space. I'm not that friendly. The first thing I would have said to him is, "You need to move over." Maybe he would have taken a nap a little sooner.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Phil Says: Spring will come early

Today is Groundhog's Day, and there's no place better to be on this day than Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

I've never had the experience, but this morning Peter and three of his friends did. They left their dorm rooms at Grove City College around 5:30 a.m. and drove 80 miles east to Punxsutawney.

They arrived at Gobbler's Knob just in time to get settled and watch Phil emerge from his burrow. You can watch the ceremony at this link.

I am very pleased with the outcome of Phil's forecast: He did not see his shadow, so winter is over for this year. Break out the t-shirts and sandals!

Peter said they would have stayed for more of the festivities, but they had to be back to campus by 10:00 for class.