Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Really Good Murder Mystery

The Aniversary Man by R.J. Ellory was one of the best murder mysteries I've ever read.  It keeps you guessing until the end.  It's about a copycat serial killer.  And, I didn't realize until the end of the book, that all the serial killers in the book are real, or as real as Ellory could make them.  It was easy to read, although it took me a while to get used to all of his sentence fragments, but I really had trouble putting the book down.  I would highly recommend this one.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Some sewing projects

I make most of my husband's boxers.  I enjoy doing it -- it's an easy, quick project.  I almost always use fabric from my stash (sometimes they are very outlandish!) so they are also cheap -- I only have to buy the elastic.  Since my embroidery machine was working ferociously this weekend, I took the opportunity to make some boxers.  This was old fabric, left over from some project for my son (he's 20 now, and this is SPACE JAM fabric) so it has been in my stash for awhile.

I also sewed up some flannel pajama pants for my daughter.  This fabric was purchased for this project, but I think it was probably purchased at least a year, and maybe two years ago.  They turned out warm and soft!

How would my life be better with a NEW serger?

Off and on, I've been looking at sergers.  My serger is, the best I can calculate, about 18 years old.  I purchased it right after "differential feed" was introduced.  It  has served me well, but it is very cumbersome to thread and adjust the stitches.  I find I use it less and less, because my regular sewing machine is newer, and I'm not enthused about using my "antique." The new sergers are so much EASIER and have so many more features.  Coverstitching would be a dream come true.  In all my dreams, I've never even considered that I would ever have a Husqvarna serger!  The cream of the crop, as far as I'm concerned.  I'm dreaming of all the knit fabrics I could sew . . . the cloth napkins I could make . . . 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Embroidered baskets

I'm very happy that I finally finished embroidering my baskets in my sewing room.  This has been going on for probably close to a year.  I did the last three today, and I'm pleased with the way they turned out.

They were done with patterns from Embroidery Library.

Another summer project

I found 4 sets of dish towels embroidered by my husband's grandmother.  They were just in a box with a bunch of stuff in storage at the farm.  These are the really nice, big, linen dish towels embroidered with the days of the week (or the "chores" of the week.)  They were yellowed and stained and really looked like they probably should be trashed.  I have never had the opportunity to try the "magic potion" for getting the yellow stains out of old linens.  There are various recipes but they all usually involve "Biz."  So, I used the internet and picked my formula.  I filled a big plastic tub out on my deck with hot water and a strong solution of Biz and Oxyclean.  I put all the towels in the solution and left them there for over 24 hours.  Several times I went and stirred them up.  I could see the water getting yellow as the towels became whiter!  I wrung them out the best I could and put them in my washer to rinse only.  I hung them to dry.

I was really pleased with the results.  I can find a few small spots and discolorations if I really look for them, but the difference is astounding.  I should have taken a "before" picture, but of course I never thought of that.  I plan to give a set to each of my sisters-in-law.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Isn't this just the cutest thing you've ever seen?  Embroidery Library had book lovers patterns this week.  I think I bought them all! Hopefully not many of my friends and family look at this, because I think I will make some of these for gifts.

I have been doing quite a bit of sewing lately, I just haven't had a chance to take pictures of my projects.  I'll be posting some more of my creations soon!

Friday, August 27, 2010

An interesting mystery

The Brutal Telling, by Louise Penny, is my latest read.  I really enjoyed this mystery which is the sixth of her "Chief Inspector Gamache" series.  He's a detective in Canada.  The setting is a little village in Canada that is richly described and each and every character has a unique and well-defined persona.  I like the fact that you aren't sure who committed the hideous murder until the end, and the path of discovery really kept my interest.  This book also made me want to visit the Queen Charlotte Islands, off of the coast of Canada, but I'm not sure I could survive the airplane ride to get there.  I would give another Inspector Gamache novel a try sometime, I think.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Freefall, by Ariela Anhalt was a very good young adult novel.  Luke and Hayden are best friends at a private high school.  During an initiation rite that involves jumping off a cliff, the new kid, Russell is pushed/falls off the cliff and dies.  That's the question -- did he fall or was he pushed.

The turmoil that Luke goes through during the rest of the book is painful to read.  He can't talk to anyone, he loses all of his friends, and just really becomes a totally different person.  I thought this was very realistically portrayed, and I felt his pain in my gut.

I think young adult readers will like this book, and it should provide some excellent moral quandaries for discussion.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Two New Recipes and Dessert

Tonight I tried Jammin' Salmon Burgers and Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, both Food Network recipes. We really enjoyed the whole meal.  Here are the minor changes I made:

For the burgers, I didn't use grape seed oil, just canola oil.  Didn't have fresh dill, so used dry.  I served these on our "healthy" whole wheat thin buns with lettuce.

For the salad (possibly the best pasta salad I've ever had), I didn't have capers so I used a couple of green olives.  I didn't have fresh mozzarella, so I just used the regular stuff.  I used bow tie pasta and I FORGOT the parmesan and the basil -- I'm so mad about that -- I'm sure it would have been good and I have a lovely basil plant out on my deck!!  I'm going to put some basil in for the leftovers, but I don't really think the parmesan is necessary.  I will probably just put 1/2 a cup in.

For dessert, Strawberry Banana Frozen Yogurt.  After I made the peach last week, I just had to keep going, and this was wonderful.  I used frozen strawberries, and a frozen banana (I freeze them after they get too ripe and use them for banana bread, etc.)  I cooked them with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup Splenda -- I still haven't got up the nerve to try all Splenda.  The peach I made last week froze SO hard, that I wondered what I did wrong.  After doing a little research, I decided that I needed some fat in the yogurt.  All the recipes said to use full fat yogurt or to add a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream.  I don't even know what full fat yogurt is.  Every yogurt at my grocery store says low fat.  So, after the fruit cooled and I mashed it up real well, I added 2 cups of vanilla yogurt (low fat) and 2 tablespoons of cream.  The finished product hasn't been in the freezer long enough for me to tell if the fat made a difference, so I'll let you know.

I haven't dirtied that many dishes in a long time! These recipes are definitely worth a try.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Raven Summer

I like the way David Almond writes.  It's easy to read and the message doesn't slap you in the face, it's subtle and usually I think about his books for some time after I've finished them.  I've not read Skellig yet but I enjoyed Clay.  I also enjoyed Raven Summer.  The cover really draws your attention to the book, with the little baby's hand.  The story begins with the main character finding a baby abandoned.  But the baby is only the catalyst that allows him to meet the other characters in the book, that allow the story to unfold.  You'll be surprised where it takes you.  I very often read books without reading the back or the flap, then I'm really surprised, as in this case, and the message and tone of the book was unexpected, but enjoyed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Spectacular Now

This book, The Spectacular Now, by Tim Tharp was a finalist for the national book award and I don't know why.  The main character, Sutter, is a high school senior and an alcoholic.  He is constantly drinking and never wants the think past today (the "Spectacular Now.)  He's always the hit of the party and keeps everyone laughing.

The book is written in the first person and reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye, which I didn't like very much either.  Sutter, predictably, can't keep a girlfriend, or even a close boy friend.  He hooks up with a very shy, nerdy girl (Aimee) who falls in love with him because he's the only person who has ever shown any interest in her.  Aimee starts drinking with him. 

I won't give the "ending" away, but not much happens.  I don't get the message of this story.  Is it, "High school drunks shouldn't corrupt quiet shy nerds?"  That's not a very powerful message, in my opinion.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Peaches!

I made the most delicious Peach Frozen Yogurt with fresh peaches from the orchard.  It was easy!  I've made ice cream several different times, but this is the first time I tried frozen yogurt.  I used fat-free greek yogurt -- after reading a bit about making frozen yogurt, I think you need a little fat -- it freezes REALLY hard, and if there were more fat in it, it would be more creamy.  But it tastes great!  I also didn't use the vanilla sugar the recipe called for -- I used vanilla yogurt.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lips Touch

I finished Lips Touch:  Three Times by Laini Taylor.  It is a book that has three short stories, all about the "supernatural" and all involve kissing.  I have always had a problem with short stories.  For the most part, I think they are too short and don't portray a complete story.  The always leave me wanting more.  I do have some short stories that I like -- Stephen King for example, has written a lot of short stories that I love.  Margo Lanagan, on the other hand, writes the types of short stories that I cannot enjoy.  After I read the first story in this book I almost didn't finish it.  I feel like this story was included because the other two weren't enough to make a book.  The story, Goblin Fruit, basically tells you what's going to happen, and then it happens and the story ends and you think, "now what??? That's it?"

I did finish the book and enjoyed the other two stories.  They were much more intricate and developed some unusual and unique characters.  There was suspense, and an ending.  So, overall, I would recommend the book.  Even the first story -- it was short, so it's not too much of a time investment.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Apples & Tomatoes

I love "fresh food" season.  I used some apples from the family orchard to make Easy Caramel Apple Bars.  But I did it a little differently that the recipe.  I made my own cookie dough using this recipe for Chewy Oatmeal Cookies but I left out the raisins. I also used a lot more apples - the recipe calls for one cup of finely chopped apples.  I used about three cups or more of sliced apples.  I served it with butter pecan ice cream.  It turned out very good!

Last night I made Cheesy Vidalia Onion and Tomato Pie with tomatoes from my mom's garden.  I've made this before and really like it.  I used a store-bought pie crust, Swiss instead of fontina cheese, and didn't put in the thyme.  Not only does it taste good, but it looks pretty with all that browned cheese on top . . .

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cold Soup

It has been so hot, that a cold soup I saw Ina Garten make on TV sounded really appealing, so I made it.  Her Greek Gazpacho Soup is a little different because it has feta cheese (and that makes it REALLY good.)  It's different.  There isn't much protein in it, so it's probably better for lunch or as an appetizer.  But very refreshing and tasty.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Another non-fiction book

I just finished The Forever War by Dexter Filkins.  He spent nine years in Iraq covering the war for the New York Times.  The stories he tells are unbelievable.  I am so glad I don't have any close relatives involved in that war, but on the other hand I feel so "coddled" and fortunate to live in this country.  Not just our service people but the people whose country this is have suffered so much for so long.  It is really painful to read, and think about, and that makes me feel guilty too.  I know we collect supplies for the troops, and do what we can, but it just doesn't seem like enough after what they are being asked to sacrifice.   I was afraid the book was going to be very anti-war, but I thought Filkins did a good job reporting the unbiased truth.  The United States made mistakes, but also, that culture is entirely different than any culture we have ever been at war with.  There just isn't a lot of good to say about the situation, and this book makes me believe (as I have heard many times) that they will just end up fighting it out themselves (and probably for a long, long time.)

I would recommend this book if you are interested in the war in Iraq.  However, I haven't read a lot of other books on this topic so I don't have much to compare this one to.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Double Bean Burritos

I made double bean burritos tonight, and they were really good.  The only change that I made (because I didn't have very much avocado left) is that I mixed mashed avocado with a little low-fat sour cream.  I also just stirred the cilantro into the bean mixture right before serving.  I used Pace medium salsa, so they were plenty spicy, but we like that.  Even hubby liked these.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cheese Tortellini Recipe

I saw a recipe in Healthy Cooking Magazine for "Mushroom Cheese Ravioli."  (June/July 2010, p. 64.)  Using what I had, here's what I came up with.

1 pkg. of frozen cheese tortellini (cook according to package directions). 

In a skillet, heat 1tbsp. butter and 1tbsp olive oil.  Saute:

1/4 c. green pepper
1/4 c. sliced mushrooms
1/4 c. chopped onions
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. frozen corn

Add 2 Tbsp. corn starch, 1/2 cup vegetable broth, 1/2 cup soy milk, 1/2 cup dry white wine, salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer until thick.  Add 1/2 cup chopped tomato and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese at the very end and heat through.  Pour sauce over cooked pasta.  Serve with additional parmesan cheese.

We thought it turned out pretty tasty.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lots of Reading

Just got home from another camping trip.  I finished several books.  The first one was Jodi Picoult's Vanishing Acts.  This wasn't one of my favorite books of hers.  I didn't like the way she went into so much detail about the Hopi Indian traditions, but it really had nothing to do with the story.  Usually she explains those things in a very interesting way, but it always comes back to the motivations in the story.  I just didn't get the connection.  The main premise is that a 29-year-old girl finds out her father kidnapped her from her mother (who was an alcoholic) when she was 4 years old.  She was always told her mother was dead.  The legal system catches up with her father, and this is the story of his trial.  It is complicated by the fact that the daughter's fiance is the attorney for her father.  I would recommend this book.  It was interesting -- it's just hard to compare it to her other books that I've read.

Then I read I, Alex Cross, by James Patterson.  I liked this one better than the last one (Cross Country.) This one was a more traditional Alex Cross nove.  You know I like them, so I don't need to say more.

Then a book I'm ashamed to say I've never read before -- To Kill a Mockingbird.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can see why it is so studied by our students.  What a lot of moral issues to discuss!  Great book.