Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Rob Thy Neighbor

If you are a reader, you know what I mean when I say I get excited about a new book series.  This one is by David Thurlo.


The premise is that two former special forces guys move to Albuquerque and buy a pawn shop.  They both have permits to carry guns, as I assume most pawn shop operators do.  Because of their training, you really shouldn't mess with them.  But it is nice that people ignore this warning, because that is when the fun starts!

Charlie Henry and his friend and business partner, Gordon, are enjoying a barbeque at the home of some friends.  They hear gunshots and see the bloody arm of a neighbor trying to get over the block wall between the homes.  Charlie helps her over and he heads back towards the shooter when she says they are attempting to kidnap her husband.  Gordon runs around to cut them off and they end up rescuing the couple and getting hired to protect them until the police can catch whoever is involved.  There is a lot of action in this book and unlike many mysteries, Charlie and Gordon cooperate and get along with the police.


Rob Thy Neighbor is the third book in the Charlie Henry Series.  It was good enough that I immediately ordered up the first in the series.  Then I ordered the second.  I can't wait. ( I should have ordered both at once.  Now the library staff have to go back in the mystery stacks twice.  Sorry.)

Charlie Henry is Navajo and I love the bits of insight into Navajo culture.  In this way, it reminds me of a Tony Hillerman Mystery.  The first two books were written by the writing team, and husband and wife, Aimee and David Thurlo.  Sadly Aimee died and now David Thurlo is continuing the series.


If you like a mystery book with action, set in the Southwest, then you should like this series.  And Tony Hillerman fans will be glad to find another strong Indian protagonist. 


Saturday, October 1, 2016


I was getting pretty excited about selling my baskets at Mountain Magic in Fall, a local festival here in Buchanan, VA.

Then the rain began  It rained off and on for about 5 days.  The last 24 hours or so dropped over 5 inches.  Many inches came poring out of the sky in just a few hours. 


The James River is up and the carnival grounds in Buchanan, where they hold the festival, are soaked.  So the Town Of Buchanan decided to push the festival back to next Saturday.  The Saturday when I will be in Texas.  That Saturday.

So now I have bins of baskets. Bunches of bins of baskets.  Scads of baskets.  Sixty-six baskets.

I will put them away and wait for the next Buchanan festival.  Or maybe I will start an Etsy site.


Either way, I will sell them somewhere.

But in the meantime, there are some other shapes and things I want to try with the baskets that I put off learning.  I wanted to make as many baskets as possible in as many styles as I was comfortable making, so I put off my experimentation.

So now I get to go play around and I don't have to worry about producing.  So, that will be fun.

But I REALLY wanted to try selling them and see if other people like my baskets as much as I do.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Honey Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops

Lee likes pork chops, but just frying them gets boring.  I found a recipe that sounded different.  I altered it a bit to suit me and they turned out amazing.


Balsamic and Honey Glazed Pork Chops

4 large pork chops
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic


Place the pork chops in a gallon sized Ziploc bag.  Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour over the pork chops.  Seal and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes


I used this time to prepare my side dish of roasted vegetables and put them in the oven...another favorite.


Remove the pork chops from the bag.  Shake off the excess marinade into the bag and reserve it.

Drizzle some olive oil in a large pan and cook the pork chops about 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.


Pour the reserved marinade over the meat and cook about 5 more minutes  The marinade has to boil for a few minutes, because it had the raw meat in it.  It has to boil but not burn so keep an eye on it.

Remove the chops and place on a plate.  Spoon some of the thickened and delicious balsamic glaze over them.  Serve with some nicely browned, roasted vegetables. At least that's what I did!


Pork chops are nice but this balsamic glaze really makes them delicious.  You should try it!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Three Way Lemon Cookies

I serve our B&B guests freshly baked cookies every day.  I make the cookies and then freeze them raw, so I can bake them fresh each day, without baking a whole batch every time.  I try to do different recipes and this time I wanted to do a lemon cookie recipe. 

I couldn't find any recipes I wanted to try.  Most of them required a lemon frosting.  I decided they needed that because they didn't use enough lemon in the recipe, so I used three versions of lemon in these cookies and I really like the end result.  The latest guests even wanted the recipe.  Check my blog, I told them.


Three Way Lemon Cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1 teaspoon lemon flavoring
1 1/2 lemons zest, zest both and reserve the zest from the other half of one lemon
juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour

Lemon Sugar
zest from the other half of a lemon
1/2 cup sugar


Set out two sticks of butter to come to room temperature. 


Don't heat the oven at this time.  You will need to let the cookie dough chill for at least and hour.


Wash and zest the two lemons.  Take half the zest from one lemon and place it in a small bowl. 


Add the sugar and mix, breaking up the clumps of the zest to evenly distribute it among the sugar granules. 


Beat the butter for 3 minutes in a stand mixer.  It will become fluffy and pale in color.  Scrape down the butter and keep mixing two times during the mixing process.  Add the sugar and mix until the sugar is incorporated into the butter.


Add the eggs and mix until well blended.  Add the vanilla, lemon flavoring, lemon zest and lemon juice.  I squeezed the juice over a small strainer, so that I didn't get any seeds in the cookies.


Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt and 1 cup of the flour.  Mix.  Then add one more cup of flour and mix.  Then mix in the last cup of flour.

Scrape down the sides and chill the dough for an hour or more.

Heat the oven to 350°.  Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking pad.


Make balls the size of a walnut and drop them into the lemon sugar.  I used a mid-size cookie scoop and dropped them directly into the lemon sugar.  Roll the cookies gently in the lemon sugar and them place them two inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  Use a fork to lift them from the lemon sugar so you don't end up with too much sugar on the pan and not on the cookies.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.  Don't over bake.  These cookies are meant to have a lemony crunch on the outside and a soft chewy lemon burst on the inside.


I made enough cookies from this batch so that Lee and I could have a few.  You can't give cookies to people if you haven't taste tested them!  The rest of this batch went in the cookie jar in the B&B.  The remaining raw balls of dough went into the freezer for our next guests.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Baskets on Display

If you follow my blog, you will know that I have been making baskets to sell at Mountain Magic in Fall in the Town of Buchanan.  I got the first book of instructions on making coiled fabric baskets from the library.  I wanted to keep it, but libraries frown on that, so I found one on Amazon and bought it.  There are a few more books on making my new favorite type of baskets on Amazon, so I recently bought them as well.  Once I finish making baskets to sell I will try some of the different techniques in the new books.  I can't sell baskets I am learning on.  No one wants those. 


The library in Fincastle has a display case and various people or organizations show what they are working on for a month at a time.  I have the month of September.


I placed the book that I am using there, too.  It is my copy of the one the library consortium owns.  I also placed the books I will use next, in case people want to encourage the library to get those, too.  Libraries are good about that.  Tell them what you want and you have a good chance that they will get it for you.


This year Mountain Magic will be held October 1st.  I have reserved a space and am excited about it.  If I don't sell any baskets, I will be less excited.  I'm hoping my friends will at least stop by and visit me.


Naturally, I forgot to take pictures when I finished setting up the display.  The children's librarian sent me these, so I didn't have to make another trip.  It helps to have friends in high places. 

I hope to have about 50 baskets by the time Mountain Magic in Fall rolls around.  I am also hoping I don't have 50 baskets to take home at the end of the day.  My friends and family share this hope.  If I don't sell any, they have a pretty good idea what gifts they will be getting for every birthday and Christmas for a very long time....

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Flint knapping is a technique almost as old as humans.  Flint can be heated and then struck to break off the edges to make many tools.  They have been made into hide scrapers, knives and arrowheads, among others  If you aren't familiar, go read Valley of the Horses by Jean Auel.  It is my favorite of her series about early humans.  It starts with Clan of the Cave Bear.  You can read about the history and techniques here, if you are interested.

One of our recent guests is an avid flint knapper.  He makes many objects, but he particularly likes the challenge of making arrowhead earrings.  It is very difficult to make two mostly identical arrowheads out of stone.  It may break a different way or the stones may not match in color or many other obstacles. 

I showed these guests some of my baskets that I make and we decided to work out a trade.  Ray sat down outside with a deer hide on his lap and Julie and I went up to my workroom.  She picked out the fabrics she liked and we decided on a shape.   We each began the process of making a unique piece of art.


This is the basket I came up with.  I left the embellishment off as we had decided that Ray wanted to wire wrap an arrowhead to attach to the basket and he didn't have any wire with him.


This is the arrowhead that I received in exchange.


Barter is also as old as humans, so I liked the whole concept.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Piedmont Virginian

I received an email a month or so ago.  It seems that a recipe I had posted on this blog had popped up on an Internet search for an apple butter recipe to include in the September/October issue of The Piedmont Virginian Magazine. 


I remember that recipe.  A friend and fellow blogger had given me a jar of apple butter and I wanted to make something with it.  I couldn't find a recipe I liked, so using the amounts of flour, leavening and moist ingredients form other recipes, I came up with my own.  Mine uses some delicious spices and it was so moist and flavorful, especially the next day.

I gave permission for the magazine to publish the recipe, then I panicked.  What if I had written something down incorrectly?  That could happen!  I re-read the recipe and was sure I had done a good job of transcribing my semi readable notes.

When I was told that the recipe was definitely going in the magazine, I panicked again!  Then again, that is my usual fall back position for many life situations.  Did I lock the door?  Make sure all the animals were in? Bring my passport?

I was assured that the recipe had been reproduced for the photo in the magazine and that it was delicious, as advertised.  Whew!


You can access the recipe on my blog, but please purchase the magazine, if it is available in your area, or go to their site.  You have to honor such perspicacity and taste!