Saturday, November 27, 2010

Some Sober Holiday Thoughts

Well, it's done. We had about 20 people in my little house. I think they had fun and got enough to eat. I hope so. I can't get over a feeling of disappointment. I tried so hard this year to be organized. Everything was fine until people started arriving and then it was wild with so many people crowding into my little kitchen and trying to heat things in my little oven. I'm already thinking of how to improve the serving situation for Christmas. I am irritated with myself for feeling down about this. I should be filled with gratitude. My family is nearby and all is well with all of them. I am grateful. Maybe the fact that I came down with a full blown UTI the day after Thanksgiving has something to do with my mood.

I am also bummed out by some of the stories of people camping out to get bargains and then stealing them from each other, etc. As much as I would enjoy a new lap top or an ipad or a fancy new phone, I can't really think of anything I want badly enough to fight over it. I know that is easy to say with a full stomach and a roof over my head. I guess I would fight as hard as anyone if my life or my family's lives depended on it. That thing where the brides fight for all the dresses. I think having a tug of war over the dress would ruin it for me.

Anyway, if you want to see something cute that will make you laugh, check out this link to Attic 24 about the boy baking. So cute. Attic 24 is one of the first blogs I found when I started and I still like to check in and see what is going on.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Twin Babies

Picture is from last Christmas 2009.

Two 15 lb. turkeys. Tom and Jerry. One in the fridge and one in a sink of cold water. I am taking each of them out for a soak every now and then, hoping they thaw completely by Thanksgiving. One will be roasted in the oven, topped with bacon for my husband, and carved before the guests arrive. One will be roasted in the portable roaster. My brother is also bringing turkey (cajun fried turkey) and dressing (cajun dressing) and I look forward to trying it, but I want leftovers and lots of white meat for 18 - 20 people. With Winn Dixie's value card, each turkey was only $10 and change. I was only going to buy an extra frozen breast but just a little one cost almost as much as the whole turkey.

The most simple meal is planned. Lots of turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes topped with a layer of fat, toasty marshmallows, green bean casserole, rolls, cranberry sauce, homemade herb dressing and Mrs. Smith's pumpkin and apple pies.

Nothing fancy. Everything easy. But it will taste good and be shared with friends and family. YMMMM! Happy Thanksgiving. Got to go put the turkey baby back in the fridge.
Edited to add: My neighbor pointed out that I have 3 days to thaw the turkeys, not 2 like I thought. So no more cold water baths are necessary.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Time Travel - Magpie Tales

This picture is a prompt for Willow's writing blog called Magpie Tales. Click on the link to see other entries and to add your own.

The stars roll around the heavens, the earth turns as it circles the sun. The universe moves inevitably toward its destiny. Perhaps it will expand forever until it is cold and empty. Or it might crash back onto itself only to explode again in unimaginable violence. Perhaps there is an infinite number of parallel universes where each choice we make branches into a new reality. And still, time moves on. Einstein said that time and space are intertwined, that time slows down as you approach the speed of light. I have heard that our concept of time doesn't exist at all and is only the invention of man, that everything that will ever happen has already taken place. I am fascinated and awed by these ideas and by the idea of time travel. I remember reading in a comic book about Superman flying around the earth so fast that time turned backwards.

I also remember clearly when I first saw the movie "Back to the Future". It was 1991 because I was about to attend my 25 year high school reunion. I loved all the twists and turns that travelling back in time created. I remember near the end when the hero was leaving and the girl who was to be his mother said to herself, "Marty - that's a nice name." And so, he was named after himself. I remember taking a long walk after the movie thinking about time travel and my upcoming high school reunion. I wished I could know the future.

Well, I've done a little time traveling since then. Forward, which is the only way we know for sure that time can flow. It has been almost 20 years since I took that walk. I went through a painful divorce, I had to change my career, my children grew up, my mother died. I wonder what I might have done differently if I could have seen the future that day.

Well, I wish I would have made some different career choices, I wish I hadn't chosen to refinance my house. The main thing I wish is that I was kinder, more patient with my mother and my children, more accepting of other people and their choices - even if I didn't understand those choices. I would focus more on my own life and the options I had control over and less on trying to make other people change to meet my expectations. This sounds a lot like the Serenity Prayer.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Guess what? I had no idea where this post was going when I started!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Onion Soup Story

Picture from French Onion Soup Page, a blog by Ron Schnell who is a true onion soup connoisseur. This image from the Grizzley House - Banff, AB, Canada. Read about this and other great onion soups from everywhere on Ron's blog and find out about Ron himself. Onion soup is only one of his many interests.

My daughter groans when I tell this story because she has heard it too many times and is not a fan of onions anyway. But it is a vivid memory for me and one I think of whenever I have French onion soup.

I was working at a trade show in Washington, D.C. It was my first visit there and I was excited, but I was also sick. I had a runny nose, sore throat, tight chest, muscle aches and just wanted to go back to bed. I tried to tell my boss I was sick but he just said he didn't feel good either and did I want a cold pill? So I was stuck working on my feet all day with high heels and no time for lunch.

When I finally made it up to my room at 7:00 p.m. all I wanted was a drink, a hot meal and a hot bath but I couldn't find a room service menu. I called to the desk and asked for a menu. I waited. I called a second time with no results. Finally, I called the restaurant and asked if they had French onion soup and a double whiskey sour.

They delivered a big steaming crock of soup with a slab of crusty toast floating in the broth and covered with a thick layer of melted cheese and a very large, very strong, icy cold whiskey sour. The hot soup and jolt of alcohol brought beads of sweat to my forehead, tears to my eyes, and cut a scorching path down my sore throat and through the congestion in my chest all the way down to my empty stomach. I finished my supper, ran the hottest bath I could stand, took some medicine, and dived under the covers, alternately shaking with chills and burning up with fever for the rest of the night. I was still sick the next day but that is one of the BEST meals I ever had.

Reuben Sandwich

Corned beef, melty cheese, sauerkraut, spicy mustard on grilled marbled rye and pumpernickel. Maybe I should have taken the picture with a bite out of it. It was good. On my first trip to NYC I remember a basket of rolls of many different kinds including pumpernickel and rye. The best bread I ever ate.

Monday, November 15, 2010

First Holiday Cake

I made the Sock-It-To-Me cake I mentioned in an earlier post and took a chunk to my sister-in-law. I skipped the glaze and just put some powdered sugar snow on top. As I suspected, it made a very nice little gift and we had a very nice visit. It was delicious. I went to the Duncan Hines website at and found a wealth of easy, delicious cakes to make. I want to try the Applesauce Walnut cake next. Maybe for Thanksgiving?

I had Jonah and Mia for the weekend since Jaime and Aaron were out of town. Mia missed her mommy a lot. I made chicken and yellow rice for supper on Sunday since that is Jonah's favorite and he will always eat at least two big servings. Everyone is back home and off to school and work this morning.

I also made corned beef sandwiches for Cory and Roger and me for lunch one day. I still have leftovers for Roger and my supper tonight. I will take a picture then. We got some great rye and pumpernickel marble bread at the deli, sauerkraut, deli corned beef and provolone cheese. Roger and I like spicy brown mustard on the sandwiches but Cory went with Thousand Island dressing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lessons from BlogLand

Thoughts are swarming in my head. I am going to try sort out a few of them here.

I had an exchange with Ruth today at sync-ro-ni-zing that got me thinking about plagarism. It is amazing to me that at a rather advanced age and after a lifelong interest in writing and an aborted start at a journalism degree, I still had the idea that plagarism had to do with using other people's ideas (which is what education is all about) rather than giving them credit. How could I think that??? This is just an example of important things I have learned and clarified through the process of blogging.

I have known since the fourth grade that I have a talent for expressing myself. I observed that I got a positive response from my teachers and classmates when I read my writings aloud. I didn't actually figure out for years that part of that response came from the performance as well as the writing. I wish I had figured that out sooner.

My favorite teacher, Mr. Shaw, didn't have much use for me. Sure, I was the teacher's pet for plenty of English teachers, but he was the debate coach, drama teacher and also taught a 9th grade speech class where I got to know him. He mesmerized us on the stage in our classroom with challenging ideas, vague references to famous plays and little exercises in improvizational acting. He had a devoted following of students who were more self aware and confident than I. The debate squad. Oh, why didn't I join? And when I did try my hand at debate, why didn't I take it more seriously rather than just arguing the obvious points from the top of my head? I was ripe to get shot down by the first clever argument. I knew my point was good, but I couldn't figure out how to defend it. I had so much to learn from Mr. Shaw but I wasn't ready.
Even though I was nearsighted, I discovered I loved photography in college. That interest got side tracked by a "funny" photogaphy teacher who got fresh in the darkroom. I was too naive to protest but just avoided him and his class after that. I still got an "A". (Imagine that?) I excelled in a speech class at the same time, but didn't take it seriously.

Later, at Oklahoma University, I had an English professor who took an interest in me and my writing. He noted that I was a journalism major and challenged me in many ways. He actually wore jackets with patches at the elbow and I bet he smoked a pipe when he wasn't in class. I also took another speech class and photography class for fun about the same time. Unfortunately, my first true love broke my heart about that time and I dropped out, went to my mother's home in Florida, and got a job at the phone company.

So I always knew I wanted to write but about what??? I discovered that being a reporter for hard news was not for me. In fact, I ended up in the production end of the publishing business for many years.

I always admired writers whose whole lives lead to their materpieces. Books like "Little Women" and "Gone With the Wind" and "To Kill a Mockingbird." (At least I have high aspirations.) But I'm disappointed to discover that I have lead a rather prosaic life. Or maybe I just have a prosaic imagination. I also admire non-fiction writers such as Margaret Mead, Gail Sheehy, and Melody Beattie.

I am not a poet like Ruth and Willow in blog land. I don't have Willow's wonderful creativity. I thought maybe a cook book? But I can't compare with food writers like Beverly and Kary. I have an appreciation but no talent for plot like Brian. An appreciation but not the natural talent for design like Layla. But I have enjoyed participating in Willow's Magpie writing blog where many writers do their own take on a visual prompt.

In that exercise and in my experiences with Toastmasters and other outlets, I have found that I like to tell little stories. I like to relive moments in my life. Happy ones. Hopefully not too maudlin or saccarine. I like to find joy and inspiration in small things which parallel my own discoveries through the Twelve Step program where I learned to find peace and contentment even in the tragedies of life that affect us all.

I have been inspired in real life by my friend, Linda, who has published and marketed her own social skills program for many years now. Linda just dives in and learns whatever she needs to accomplish her goals. She is braver than I at trying new experiences (and she persisted to achieve a doctoral degree.) I also admire my friend, Sharon, who makes an art out of living. And my friend, Sylvia, who has a natural talent for happiness. And my many other friends who each have their own gift for life. And my husband who has taught me about steadfastness and love. And my children and grandchildren who inspire me every day.

That brings me to this blog. An opportunity to write, to post photographs, to document my life and to reach out to others in the universe and for them to reach back and touch me. I haven't read "Outliers" but I understand it advances the theory that those who achieve greatness have put at least 10,000 hours into whatever pursuit they have chosen. I have always heard the rule that writers should write regularly even if they don't see the end result at the time. So I guess all this blogging is not wasted. Who knows where it might lead? Thanks for helping me sort out my thoughts.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Lunch - Roast Beef Sandwiches

Picture from

Yesterday as I was herding the little girls to the birthday party, I stopped long enough to put a frozen roast into a pot. I added a couple of inches of water and some onions in the bottom and set the oven at 325 degrees. It was nice to have supper ready when I got home. There was a brown crust on the bottom of the roast and the gravy was very rich and brown. I made more gravy with a packet of "Better Than Gravy" gravy mix and served the roast with coleslaw and some leftover mashed potatoes.

Today, Cory and Stephanie surprised us by riding their bikes over to our house. I was making lunch so they stayed a while. I chopped up the leftover roast and put it in the gravy. Then I sauteed some green peppers and onions. I put the meat and gravy and peppers and onions over some hamburger rolls and melted thin slices of pepper jack cheese over the top. It was kind of a combination of French Dip and Philly Steak. We all had cold drinks and big, warm plates of the stuff. It was fun. I never seem to get around to actually inviting them over for a big supper, but this was better. Spontaneous. So what did I feed Roger for supper later? Beans and franks and some warm rolls.

Birthday Cake

A cold day at the park and one of Jaime's birthday cakes. Mia wanted blue cake and pink icing. Below is the birthday cake Jaime made for me last year which is decorated with spiced almonds.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Aunt Esther's Farm - Magpie #39

Magpie Tales is a creative writing blog. Check it out here.


A few special summers at aunt Esther's Oklahoma farm. Real butter and cream for breakfast. The crowing of the rooster at daybreak. Waking in the little white bedroom up the steep stairs and looking down into the yard from the old wood-framed windows. A green Hoosier cabinet in the kitchen. A bathroom that used to be a porch. An unused formal parlor with carpet, a wood-trimmed velvet sofa and an old piano. A rose garden. Learning to sew. Searching through the hay bales in the old barn for eggs and trying to catch the wild kittens. My aunt cracking fresh eggs at the stove and tossing the shells over her shoulder into the sink. Eating fried chicken that had just been walking around a little while ago. Feeding a calf from a bucket with a large rubber nipple. Riding on a tractor. The sweet smell of cutting into a ripe, red watermelon right out of the field. Oh, and getting trapped in an outhouse by a mean rooster. (There was a ripe smell in that outhouse, too!) A few old photographs and some family stories. Some old phonograph records. I was a modern girl from the 60's. These are the only fragile connections I have to a simpler life style that is older than time. I treasure them now.

Sock It To Me Cake

Picture from

I was inspired by a visit to Panera Bread the other day. They have a coffee cake that has a snow top of powdered sugar and packaged to make a beautiful gift for the holidays. But it does cost $14.99 and it doesn't have any nuts in it. That made me think of this old recipe for a great moist bundt cake with streusel in the middle. It is made with a Duncan Hines butter cake mix and it would make a great present. Perhaps you could save enough by baking the cake to afford to present it in an inexpensive cake saver.

I found this recipe many places but in my search I found it in two great recipe blogs. One had the recipe below and the other had this beautiful picture. The recipe came from a blog called "Something's Burning." You can find it under Interesting Links on the right hand side of this blog. The other blog that had the MOST beautiful picture is listed on the right under Blogs I Follow. It is called The Martha Initiative. Here is the cake.

Sock It To Me Cake

1 pkg. yellow cake mix
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 pint (8 oz.) sour cream
1/2 cup white, granulated sugar
4 eggs
4 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix cake mix, oil, sour cream, white sugar. Add eggs one at at time and beat well. Meanwhile, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts together. Grease and flour a bundt pan or tube pan and pour a layer of cake mixture and a layer of brown sugar mixture alternately. Do not let brown sugar touch sides of pan on the top. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove to rack to finish cooling.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

Well, after many years I have finally gotten good at roasting pumpkin seeds. The trick seems to be like roasting everything else. Dry them off and toss them with olive oil and seasonings. They browned up and turned crispy in no time. Trouble is no one likes them except Jill. They are still more hull than seed. But I will probably do it again next year anyway.