Tuesday, February 26, 2013
I have read a few really good mysteries recently. Catch Me was the latest from author Lisa Gardner. It is her most recent book in the series with Boston's top police detective, D. D. Warren.
In this book D.D.is confronted by a woman, Charlene Grant, asking D. D. to investigate her murder. As she is currently very much alive, D. D. is intrigued. It seems her two best friends from childhood trio were each murdered on January 21 a year apart and that date is fast approaching. Charlie has prepared the best she can by taking self defense and learning to shoot a gun, but she wants someone to investigate in case she is killed despite her precautions.
When walking through a not so nice section of Boston, Charlie noted, " Turned out, even snow was ugly in housing projects.....In this section of town, snow became just another form of litter. Gray, sandy, riddled with yellow pools of dog piss and bristling with discarded straws, Big Gulp lids, cigarette butts. You didn't look at this kind of snow and think of Christmas lights, cheerful hearth fires, or mugs of hot cocoa. You walked by these piles and figured even Mother Nature was an unforgiving bitch."
D. D. is just back from maternity leave, which is changing the way she works and her outlook. It is also exhausting her after sleepless nights and no caffeine because she was pregnant and then nursing. Now she gives in and has a cup. "At which point she took the first sip. She both tasted and heard the caffeine hit her bloodstream, a powerful jolt that made her want to sigh and inhale and start the whole process all over again. So she did."
I love a good line. Or three.
As with most police departments she is also working on another case, this one involving a couple of murdered pedophiles. Charlie's story doesn't always ring true and the two cases start to run together. Is she a victim or a predator? What is the truth?
I like the way the cases run together and you can't figure out the "whodunit" part in the first few chapters. Another book I recommend to you.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Earlier I posted a recipe from the Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook. In it she has a recipe for sour cream pancakes from her husband's grandmother, Edna Mae. It only has a bit of flour and they are very good with a bit of a sour bite. Just delicious.
Back when the kids were little (and even now when they visit) I would make banana pancakes by smashing up a ripe banana or two into the Bisquick batter. An easy and delicious breakfast. Especially if you make faces in the pancakes with chocolate chips! I wondered whether bananas would taste good in Edna Mae's recipe for sour cream pancakes.
You can scroll down to find the earlier directions for the original recipe. I will repeat the ingredients here and add fruit so I can pretend I am eating healthily.
Sour Cream Pancakes with Bananas...oh, and Strawberries!
1 cup sour cream
7 (yes, only 7) Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 mashed banana
1 cup sliced strawberries
Heat a griddle over medium low heat.
Slice the strawberries and set aside in a small bowl.
Use a fork and smash a ripe banana in a large bowl until kind of mushy. Add the eggs and whip them around with the same fork. Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix it in. Keep using the fork.
Just dump all the dry ingredients ( flour, sugar, baking soda and salt) on top of the mixture and give them a good mix. You made need a bigger spoon at this point. It is okay to have lumps. Don't over mix.
Place a pat of butter on the griddle and when it is melted pour about 1/4 cup of the batter on top of the melted butter. When the top starts to turn dry around the edges, about 1 1/2 minutes, flip it over. Cook the other side and prepare to plate. I like the griddle because you can cook enough for one person at a time. Serve with a sprinkling of sliced strawberries and the syrup of your choice.
This recipe made enough for 3 people. I left out the chocolate chip faces, no kids to spoil, but feel free to indulge!
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Thomas Perry writes a series about Jane Whitefield. She helps people to disappear. “I’m a guide . . . I show people how to go from places where somebody is trying to kill them to other places where nobody is." Suppose your ex is a cop. And he has made it clear he is going to kill you. And the other cops don't believe you. What would you do? She will help get them new identification and get lost somewhere. She teaches them to change the way they live and work. She shows them how to disappear.
Jane doesn't advertise or have a web page. Someone who knows what she does has to tell the potential runner how to find her. She doesn't charge for her services and frequently fronts the money for desperate people. Most of the time the runners will pay her back at some vague future time. When they are settled and earning money and safe, money finds its way to Jane.
Each of the last few books have seemed to be the last in the series. After all, she got married and agreed to stop her dangerous calling. But when desperate people have nowhere to turn, she feels compelled to help out.
In this book, Jane helps James Shelby escape from court where he has been unjustly convicted in the murder of his wife. The actual murderer set Shelby up so that no one would suspect him. The rest of the book is a whirlwind of Jane trying to get him safe and then trying to figure who really did it. That part is assisted by the fact that the murderer is sending people after them the whole time. So they have to evade the cops and the murderers.
Jane is captured by them and tortured to get information about where Shelby is going. Jane is Native American, a Seneca, and uses the stories of how braves would stay back and fight off groups of enemy warriors to give his own people time to escape to help her withstand the pain. Many times this meant being caught and tortured and it was a sign of bravery to be stoic under the torture.
In the course of investigating Jane, they discover there are many people who want to know where she has put past runners. They are willing to pay a lot to torture the information out of her so they can finish what they started.
Jane escapes and the race is on. The book is non-stop action and I couldn't put the book down. I highly recommend this series. I suggest you start with the first one and read them in order. This book references past books and while it isn't necessary to read them in order, I always prefer to do that. There are many places online to find books in order by any author. I suggest you go right now and get started!
Friday, February 22, 2013
This is the first year since we met we were not together for Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day is also the anniversary of our engagement mumble, mumble years ago. OK. I will tell you. It was 33 years ago. Sheesh. That makes me sound old. Just so you know, I was a child bride, practically in my infancy.
When I was an actual child, we had peacocks. At first we had one and his name was Prince. My father would catch him from time to time and trim one of his wings. This would keep him from flying away. It did not prevent him from flying up into tree branches for nesting purposes.
At one point someone must have decided he was lonely and the chickens weren't cutting it. So we got a peahen. Then she laid eggs and we had a flock of peachicks. During this time his wing feathers grew back and he started flying through the neighborhood until he found a rival peacock from somewhere. They would go from rooftop to rooftop in a huge territorial fight. More wing trimming. One terrible night Prince flew into the street and got hit by a car.
All of us kids stood in the dark, crying around the hole my father had dug for his grave. Dad pulled the last of his tail feathers out with a horrible ripping sound. These feathers joined the others we had been collecting over the years in a large vase in our house. The last pieces of Prince.
But we still had peahen and peachicks. My father had lost patience with them. Partly because the cry of a peacock sounds like a woman screaming "Help!". At one point one of the neighbors had called the police to let them know we had a woman screaming for help in our yard. My parents weren't home and it was quite an ordeal to convince them we weren't torturing women in the backyard.
Dad sent the lot of them to the Arcadia Arboretum where they joined some existing peacocks. You may have never heard of the Arboretum, but you have seen parts of it. The opening sequence of Fantasy Island was filmed there. Parts of some Tarzan movies were filmed there. Even parts of two of the Jurassic Park movies were filmed there. And now , generations later, descendants of Prince live there. If you are ever in the area, I strongly suggest you go for a visit. It's a wonderful place.
This whole story just goes to show you that I love peacocks. I love peacock feathers, although I can't keep any in a house with cats. They love them, too. And not in a good way. In a "let's rip it to shreds" way.
So when we celebrated a wee belated Valentine's Day by giving a few gifts we had saved for Lee's return, look what I got!
A beautiful Peacock teapot.
And a two tiered server. Now I have to have a peacock inspired tea party! I am currently taking reservations!
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
I haven't posted anything for quite some time. It has been a difficult time here. Lee got a call from his sister telling him his father was in the hospital and not expected to live. He flew to Montana to be there. His father passed away a few days later and then his uncle died about 12 hours after that. I picture them both at the Pearly Gates, saying, "What are YOU doing here?"
Thee was no warning or notice, so I couldn't go with Lee. And really, I think he and his sister did a great job of handling everything without my being there. Plus, it is hard to find cat and dog and horse sitters without any notice. So I stayed here and painted. And painted. I used about 13 gallons of paint. I only have inside the hall closets and the stairwell to do. The stairwell will need some sort of scaffolding to reach the top. Lee can rig something up when I get back.
I have to go to California tomorrow for my mother's 90th birthday. I am taking her younger sister. Waaaay younger. Right, Suzy??? She had a knee replacement last year ( I think she hurt it on a zip-line of all things) and I am traveling with her to make sure she can get around the airports. And to make sure she doesn't bring her gun with her. There are people coming from other parts of the country so I have to go. Plus, 90! Quite a milestone and I want to be there.
But it saddens me to leave so soon after Lee gets back. It was hard on both of us to be apart for this last week and now it is my time to leave. Thing can only look up from here.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
There is a kind of cookie that Lee really likes and we haven't found it in any stores, lately. It is a German cookie called Lebkuchen. I thought I would make him a batch. After all, it is almost Valentine's Day, and it's not as though he likes jewelry or flowers. Then I discovered there are many different recipes. I picked a few likely ones and examined the ingredients. One of them is candied ginger. That is hard to find around here. They have it in tiny spice jars and it is expensive. So before I make the cookies, I gotta make the candied ginger.
I found out that when you make the candied ginger, the leftover syrup makes a dandy ginger ale. And you can save any sugar that fell off the candied ginger and use that. Three items from one recipe. I'm in!
1 pound of ginger root
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
I know. Easy right? Well it is obvious you never peeled ginger. Some people recommend using a spoon. I used a combination of a knife and a vegetable peeler.
You need to slice the ginger very thinly, about 1/8 inch thick. I used a mandolin, but I couldn't use the handle so I was VERY careful. When the ginger became too small to hold safely, I used the knife. Some small chunks are also going to be good as I need to chop the candied ginger for the cookies, anyway.
Place the sugar, water in a heavy pot. I ended up with about 2 cups of sliced ginger and I added that to the pot, also. Heat it up over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to a slow simmer. I cooked mine for about an hour, stirring now and then. ( In about 20 minutes the whole house will be infused with the smell of sweet ginger.) You want to reduce the volume by half.
I used a slotted spoon to remove all the ginger pieces. I put them on a plate that I had covered with sugar. Sprinkle more sugar on top.
Stir to coat and then remove to a rack for drying. I left them to dry for a few hours. You may need longer depending on the humidity. Maybe even overnight. Place the finished candy in air tight containers.
Ginger is good for nausea. And usually safe for pregnant women...or any men who happen to become pregnant. I'm not genderist, you know! It is VERY spicy, though, so be careful and try a little piece first! It would be good in stir fry and chopped up on salads. I wonder if it would be good in oatmeal? And we know it is good in cookies!
Pour the now cooled ginger syrup through a strainer to get all the bits you missed with the slotted spoon. I poured mine into a couple of 1 pint Ball jars. Now for the ginger ale.
2 or 3 Tablespoons ginger syrup
optional mint and rum
I just added in the rum part! But is sounds good, right? I used 3 Tablespoons and it was too sweet for me. So start with 1 or 2 and adjust to taste. I put my syrup in the refrigerator and it became very thick, almost like Karo syrup. It dissolved quickly in the soda water though. The lime made a nice touch and added some tartness.
I think I still prefer the commercially made ginger ale, but maybe that is because I am used to it. I'll keep trying to get it right. Can't just throw away the syrup!
Speaking of that, I saved the sugar that fell off the ginger pieces and put it in a sugar bowl. One recipe suggested it for teas and on cereal. I put some in my tea and it boiled up in a fizzy sort of way and then quickly settled down. I didn't taste much ginger, but then I didn't waste the sugar either!
Sunday, February 10, 2013
I have heard that eating a few raisins in gin every morning is supposed to help with arthritis. My finger joints are tender and swollen these days so I am going to try it out. Painting isn't helping. I woke up with most of my fingers tingling. The others were numb. It hurts to make a fist.
I went to the local ABC store, because for some reason the state of Virginia prefers to sell alcohol rather than letting grocery stores do that. The very helpful state of Virginia employee there directed me to the pricier version of gin. I was going to buy a small bottle of generic gin. He convinced me that the more expensive version has more juniper berries and therefore was more efficacious. I wonder if he is on commission?
I came home and put the raisins in a Ball jar and covered it with gin. This morning I fished out 6 raisins. At this point I should point out that I am not particularly fond of raisins. If raisins are called for in a recipe, I generally use Craisins. But as Craisins haven't been touted as having arthritis fighting properties, I had to go with raisins.
I also am not fond of gin. I find it worse than drinking Nyquil, mouthwash or maybe kerosene. I have no clue why people would drink a martini when there are so many tastier ways of getting your alcohol.
I decided to try to choke them down in the middle of my breakfast. And by breakfast, I mean a giant cup of coffee (or two) and an Atkins bar. Oh, and some Crystal Light to swallow my morning vitamins. You can't START your breakfast with gin, after all, and I needed a few bites more of the bar to take the taste away.
They tasted really bad. I hate gin. It didn't matter about the raisins, because I couldn't taste them. I had six and I will have six more tomorrow and the day after that. I will work my way through the whole jar and then reevaluate. I hope they work, so my hands don't hurt and the swelling goes away. I hope they don't work so I don't have to keep eating them.
Friday, February 8, 2013
It started to snow last night around 10:00. It must have come down lightly for quite few hours, because there was a couple of inches on the ground this morning. I went out to feed the horse around 8:30 this morning, ( I know, I know, late. But I didn't sleep well and that is when I got up. The best sleep is always right when you are supposed to get up.) and it had already stared to melt.
I love it when the snow coats the pine trees.
It is also pretty on bare branches.
It even makes the burn pile kind of pretty.
Deer tracks on the way to the barn. Only one, though. We haven't seen the crowds of deer that we used to see. Don't know what that is about...unless it is the dog, that love, love, loves to chase them. I think he would be very surprised if he caught one. NOW, what???
It is supposed to get to 50 today so Claire gets to go out in the snow without a blanket. She does have a run-in shed to get out of, and off of the snow, should she so desire.
I put out some fresh hay and the water has a wee little heater to keep the tank free of ice. My favorite thing on winter mornings. Except, maybe, a friendly face.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
If you have been following this blog, you will have read about my effort to "re-home" my two horses. I bought them about 4 years ago and my daughter was still a regular visitor. She graduated from college and moved about 3 hours away and I developed some hip problems so they need to find new homes.
Last summer I sent them both to a trainer, hoping that she could get them sold. When winter came, the board bill had to increase and no one was looking...too cold...so she brought them back to me.
Even if I am willing to ride with a bit of pain, trying to ride one of them was always difficult. They became so bonded that when you take one horse out the other runs back and forth along the fence line whinnying for the whole time. This causes the horse I am attempting to ride to whiny back. And try to run back to her buddy. Any relaxing of hyper vigilance causes the horse under me to whirl and try to dash back to the barn. No fun.
Then there is the issue of maybe falling off and breaking an essential bone. And, by the way, I consider ALL of my bones essential.
So I have been trying to find them good home. I have advertised and put them in a sale barn. I have put up flyers and tried to use word of mouth and this blog. All to no avail.
Yesterday Lee asked the painter, who is painting our basement ceiling, if he knew any one that would like a free horse. The idea was to get rid of one of them and the other would settle down and I could get her ready for sale. Plus, she wouldn't be a nut when someone came to ride her. They were actually doing pretty good up at the barn where they were for sale. The trainer was able to separate them and there were tons of other horses and they did great.
The painter just happened to know a guy. He has lived here all his life so he knows lots of guys.
This guy has a bunch of horses and had shown them with his now-grown kids for years. One of his now-grown has a son that was hoping for a quarter horse. He just had a birthday. Doesn't that sound great? Instead of hanging around in the pasture she will be with a young kid that will brush her and give her special treats. I picture them riding for hours with Western movies running through his head. This is a way better life for her. I am happy for the young man and for Libby. I am even happy for me, sort of. But kind of sad for me, too.
So I took some last pictures.
The last time I put Libby in my pasture.
The last I put her best friend, Claire, in the field with her.
The last time of hanging out at Shenandoah Gateway Farm.
Her last time driving away.
The last time I cleaned her stall.
OK. I won't miss that little chore.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
I have been craving sourdough pancakes. Not just any ones, but the thin and very sour ones made with a sourdough starter that has been souring for years. I used to keep a sourdough starter for pancakes and it was pretty good. But they are a lot of work if you don't use them often. You have to take some out and add fresh ingredients every week or so. I thought about making a starter and trying out sourdough bread. The real sourdough bread, like you get in San Francisco. But we don't eat that much bread any more and so I gave that idea up.
I was wondering if Greek yogurt would make a good sour pancake and started checking the Internet for recipe ideas. It seems EVERYBODY is raving about the Pioneer Woman's version of sour cream pancakes. (In case you don't know her and her blog, they all refer to her with the initials of PW and she is wonderful.) It was even on Smitten Kitchen, another favorite foodie blog. I decided I needed to try it out. I have the Pioneer Woman cookbook and yet I have never made the pancakes. No time like the present. These are named after PW's grandmother-in-law, Edna Mae, who gave her the recipe.
Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes
1 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 Tablespoons flour (yes, that is accurate, just 7 Tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat up a griddle or cast iron pan over medium low heat.
Put the eggs and vanilla in a bowl and whisk together. Add the cup of sour cream and whisk again. Remove the whisk and stick it in the sink. Get a spoon.
Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to the sour cream mixture. Stir together gently. It is not necessary or even desirable to get all the lumps out. Just make sure the flour is moistened.
Melt a bit of butter in the pan or griddle and pour about 1/4 cup of the batter on top of it. Now you are back to every pancake recipe you ever made.
Just make sure the top has made and then popped some air bubbles before you try to turn the pancake over. Then cook the other side until browned and serve immediately with the syrup of choice.
I don't like to drown pancakes in puddles of syrup. I like a pancake to retain a modicum of texture. No gloppy pancakes for me. My preferred pancake eating style is with a bit of syrup on the side. I call it a dipping puddle. Cut a bite, dip and consume.
Feel free to eat your pancakes your way.
These pancakes are truly worth the hype. They are easy to make with ingredients on hand and made just the right amount for two people. They are light and have a delicious sour bite to them. I recommend them highly. Next time I may try them with Greek yogurt and maybe strawberries on top.
Monday, February 4, 2013
I grew up and lived in California for most of my life with a few side trips to Polynesia. Mexican food is easy to get and I grew up with an appreciation for it. Then we moved to Virginia and while there are a lot of Mexican restaurants and they seem to be run by folk from Mexico, you just can't find the hole in the wall joint with glorious food. One thing I miss is great guacamole.
You can find guacamole at a lot of places. Subway even has it for sandwiches. But it is mass produced and thin and kind of vinegary. It is no way like the chunky avocado goodness of REAL guacamole. If you want to try the real thing, it is easy and I'll tell you how I like it.
4 ripe, but not squishy, avocados
3 tomatoes I like Roma for guacamole.
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 lime Save the rest to put in beer or soft drinks or margaritas.
salt and pepper
jalapeno, diced If you like it and I don't. Make sure you take out the seeds and the white membrane before you dice it up.
They make cool tools to remove the seed and flesh of an avocado, but a large knife and a spoon are all that is needed. Start at the top and slice through to the seed. Slice all the way around the avocado and back to the top. Twist it apart. Tap the knife into the seed and twist it out of the avocado half. Now all you have to do is scoop out the flesh with a soup spoon.
Well, I was going to use four and I bought four, but one was rotten, so I only used 3 avocados. Next time I will buy extras. They go great in salads, so you can't go wrong buying a few more than you need. Squeeze half of a lime over the avocados. This helps to prevent them from turning an unappetizing gray and adds a fresh bite.
I like to use a potato masher to mash the avocados with the red onion. A fork works, too. Don't even try to get it smooth, but don't leave huge chunks.
Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. The quarter them and remove the seeds and the white part. Dice them up and add them to the mix. Add the jalapenos if you are using them.
Take the bunch of cilantro and after you wash it, twist off the top of about half of the bunch. Chop the leafy parts and leave the stems. Add the finely chopped tops into the mix. I added about 5 drops of Tabasco. Just a bit as I don't like too much heat, but I like the flavor. This is a good time to add some salt and pepper. I use about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few twists of the pepper grinder.
Stir everything up and taste with a chip. Adjust the seasoning, if needed.
Here is my hint. I usually make this for a group and I have to make food ahead of time so that it is ready when the guests arrive. Even with the lime, the guacamole might turn a bit gray, given enough time. This is one reason why commercial guacamole is so terrible. They load it up with stuff (vinegar?) to keep it from turning colors.
I take about 1/3 cup of sour cream and cover the entire top of the guacamole with a very thin layer so that no air reaches any part of the dip.( It helps to move the finished dip to a smaller bowl so there is less surface area.) This keeps it green and beautiful. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
When your guests arrive stir the sour cream into the dip. This adds a layer of creaminess to the dip and it still tastes of fresh avocados. A guacamole purist may not like my version, but I love it. Let me know what you think.