Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A really good chocolate cake recipe

Master K turned 15 yesterday! We made him a chocolate layer cake. The recipe I chose was Black Magic Cake, which I found on allrecipes.com but which probably originally came from Hershey's. The batter is frighteningly thin but the cake turned out great. I think the addition of the coffee is what makes the difference.

For icing, I made this frosting, only after adding 2 tablespoons of milk as it said to, the icing was still a clumpy, dry mess. I added some more cold coffee to thin it and to echo the coffee in the cake. I'll do that again for sure.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Name That Handbag! Contest at Yellow Bird Art


Allow me to direct your attention to the contest over at the blog of my favorite quilt ship, Yellow Bird Art. The prize is a delectable collection of gorgeous fabric swatches. The contest is to suggest the perfect name for their new original handbag pattern.

I got to see the sample bag you see pictured over there ==> and it's not only gorgeous, it's a practical, roomy bag that I want! I'll be buying the pattern for sure once it goes on sale.

Just Started Marinatin' a Brisket

Two, actually. To be cooked consecutively. They can marinate for 24-48 hours, so the plan is to start one cooking tomorrow morning at around this time, and the other after that one is finished, possibly even overnight, as one is about twice the size of the other.

Ever since I discovered Pioneer Woman's delicious recipe for brisket, I am no longer intimidated by this cut of delicious, though rather challenging, cut of meat. I invariably dried it out before finding her marinade and cooking method. Her marinade which looks dauntingly salty when you look at the ingredients list, but ends up quite delicious. It's not health food, believe me, but it's very good. A 10- to 12-pound brisket makes a lot of meat, and can easily be divided up in meal-sized portions for the freezer, for quick and yummy meals over the weeks to follow.

I'm considering doing brisket for Britta's graduation party, which will be on Mother's Day, so I would like something special enough not only for her, but for my/our mothers, both of whom expect to be with us for the day. I could cook a couple of briskets between now and then and have them in the freezer to take the pressure off the preparations for the big day. I like this idea.

My wish list for May 10th this year:
  • Both sets of grandparents able to attend, feeling well and having tolerated the drive without discomfort.
  • Sunshine and a high of 73 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Enough time in the schedule between church, graduation ceremony and grad party that we are not rushed and frantic.
  • Nobody sick. Nobody with a migraine. Nobody with cramps. Nobody with a bad attitude. Just happy, loving family members honoring their elders with grace. *
* Hey, I can dream.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mourning Dove Spotted

March 18th: See, I'm writing this down. First it was robins, then I started hearing lots of red-winged blackbirds (though I have yet to see one), and just now there was a tired-looking mourning dove picking around looking for flower seeds in one of the beds. Isn't that a little early?

The ground is still so cold. It's going to take a long time to thaw out this year. Rochester, Minnesota, just a few miles to the north of us, was reporting the frost line at 3 feet deep in some places. That's DEEP. It was a hard winter!

Asking for Help Here: We need scholarship/grant money.

I'm putting out this appeal hoping that someone can help us. We are trying to piece together funding for Barry to attend Viterbo University beginning in the fall. As private colleges go, it's really not bad, but it's still going to be about $20,000 a year.

If you belong to a group that offers college scholarships that Barry might qualify for, please let us know. He is a displaced worker, a Christian, a firefighter, an EMT, a husband, a father, a first-generation college student, the son of a truck driver and coal miner, a home beer brewer, sails small sailboats, is a runner for exercise, and wants to be a nurse, specifically a trauma or flight nurse. If I think of anything else that might bring to mind a specific scholarship I'll post it here.

Small is no problem. A hundred bucks here and there adds up! So does fifty bucks here and there. Anything. And any grant money can save us from going more into debt with college loans. If you know of a scholarship that we can apply for, please let us know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Vintage Find: Vintage Oilcloth Shelf Lining


Look what I found, set out for the trash! It's a strip of vintage oilcloth shelf lining. It was actually stuck on the back of a strip of vintage linoleum. Talk about jackpots! So I'm guessing the oilcloth is at least 1940s and the lino 1950s (the lino was some of that very geometric style of the '50s).

"What on earth will you do with THAT?" asked my mom on the phone. I don't know. But I couldn't just walk away and leave it for the trash man, now could I?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Look who's driving!


Also look at that beautiful - and expensive - smile. Master K just got his braces off a couple of weeks ago.

Baby Fix

Last night Mike and Sara brought their new little girl over and we had supper and a nice visit. We all got our baby fix with that wee little girl, just 6 weeks old. I think we were pretty boring because all we wanted to do was watch the baby. :o) She's an extremely easy-going little lady and hardly cries, but at one point she was crying (not very loud, though I thought she was probably giving it her all and would be disappointed to find out that we were not awed at the volume she was putting out), and I kind of laughed. Lil Miss A wanted to know why I would laugh at a baby who is sad, and after thinking about it, here's what I think:

It's because as distressing as that particular moment was for Baby B, as upset as she was about whatever it was she was crying about, when we looked at her we saw a well fed, clean, comfortable, and doted upon little baby whose parents would do everything, give everything, risk everything to keep her safe and well. There are so many children out there who do not have the blessing of loving, stable parents. Looking at that little gal from our perspective, we could see that in a few minutes, all would be right in her world once more, and that her concerns and discomforts are minor in the scheme of things. What a blessing to see a child who is so loved. :o)

By the way, Mike and Sara are not very typical first-time parents. Very easy-going. In fact they didn't even freak out when Bo walked over and licked their baby on her head! I was nowhere near that calm when Britta was brand new. No. Where. Near.

P.S. We served Garlic Cheese Chicken Rollups from allrecipes.com, with a few alterations (I just mixed garlic with cream cheese rather than going out and paying twice as much for pre-garlicked cream cheese, for example). Extremely rich. I split some of the half-breasts in half and made smaller rolls and I think I would do that for all of them next time, as it would enable people to take more reasonable, non-heart-attack-causing portions.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friend with (Health) Benefits

In honor of it being March 14th, which means that I've completed my 3-month waiting period and we can have insurance again starting April 1st, I hereby post this. Love in the year 2009 is... practical.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Movie Recommendations

Watch: The Visitor. Wonderful in many ways.

Don't Bother: Australia. I didn't even get all the way through it.

Two more reasons why I love my husband

Seriously, that man just keeps getting better and better. I thought I loved him a lot when we got married. I thought I loved him a lot 5 years ago! But I love him more and more all the time. Here are two more reasons:
  1. Nursing school.  He's taking more and more interest in topics that I'm already interested in, namely trauma medicine and medicine in general. And this morning he talked about the brakes on the Jeep having problems. "It's the bilateral back brakes, not just one side," he said. Bilateral! I love it!
  2. His kind heart. He has to write a paper for Developmental Psychology on Rett syndrome. He spent about 2 hours last night watching videos on YouTube of Rett syndrome families telling their stories through pictures of their beautiful little baby girls who start out as bright, cheery little things with sparkly eyes and huge smiles, and then turn into someone else. He cried the whole time. I just love his kindness. He thinks it was more affecting because he has two lovely daughters of his own who do not have Rett syndrome, and loving them gives him empathy for parents of Rett daughters.
He wants to work in trauma nursing someday, but I think he would be wonderful in pediatrics. I also hope he gets the chance to teach someday. The world needs good nursing instructors, and he's a great teacher.

SF Signal: Do Used Booksellers Hurt the Publishing Industry?

SFSignal's Mind Meld feature this week asked the question, Does the used book market help or hurt the publishing industry? Mind Meld asks the same question to a number of people and publish the answers. They get some good thinkers who take the time and trouble to give good answers, too. This was an especially good one. Here are a few snippets. I encourage you to follow the link for more.

Jonathan Strahan: "The greatest problem for writers -- who earn no royalties on books borrowed, loaned, traded, or bought second hand - isn't piracy, it's obscurity. The greatest problem for publishers isn't finding books to publisher or venues to sell them in. It's making readers. The used book market...is for many both an entry into reading and into reading widely. It helps make new readers."

Diana Gill: "Obviously we'd prefer that people buy new books, but used books is one of the best way to try out new authors that you haven't read before, and often people then become big fans and buy new books..."

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.: "In the case of mass market paperbacks, the issue is far from clear.... Even frugal readers hesitated to try to drive to an inconvenient or distant location to save a few dollars unless they were intent on buying large numbers of books and knew that the titles were there. Today, with used books available in multiple locations on the internet, there's more convenience involved, particularly for mass market paperbacks.... [B]ut from where I sit, it's hard to tell how much of that is due to the greater availability of used paperbacks and how much to the 'standardization' and centralization of wholesale distribution, since the two feed off each other, at least partly."

Tim Pratt: "As a former poor kid and later a poor college student and still, frankly, not all that especially rich a guy, I'm a great fan of used books... What I care about is reaching readers, however I can.... [S]omeone might well take a chance on a two-dollar used book that they'd never pay full price for, and that might turn them into a lifelong fan of that author, someone who can't wait to read the next books and buys it in hardcover....

"[T]he doctrine of first sale is a well-established legal precedent. If somebody buys a book, the book -- the physical object -- is their property. They can sell it to someone else, give it away, use it to start a camp fire or level a table or squash bugs."

Mark Chadbourn: "As an author, one of the biggest obstacles facing me at this time is ensuring my name and work appears on the radar of people awash in thousands of books published every year, DVDs, games, TV shows and the constant, distracting chatter of 24-hour 21st century life. With publishers spending less and less on marketing, any avenue that allows you to connect with a potential reader becomes valuable."

Alex Irvine: "If you believe that every used book sold means that a new book is not getting sold, then it follows that the used book market is bad for publishing. I don't think anyone takes that idea seriously outside of publishing offices, though."

Alan Campbell
: "I don't know about that, but I bought six books this week from Oxfam for less than a fiver, which was pretty sweet. Also, two of my own books are in the Sue Ryder charity shop in Morningside, Edinburgh. Would someone please buy them because it's getting more embarrassing each time I go in there and see them still on the shelf."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

AROBINAROBINAROBINISAWONEISAWAROBIN!!

I did! He's out there. Can't get a picture of him but he is definitely there. Yay!

Useful French Phrases from my friend Doug

My old college friend Doug, with whom I reconnected on Facebook, has been doing us all the favor of posting useful French phrases.

FOR USE IN RESTAURANTS: "Combien de vos clients sont morts?" ("How many of your customers have died?")
"Ces poissons, ils sont mort d'irradiation?" ("Did these fish die of radiation sickness?")
"Ce restaurant n'est pas aussi bon que le McDonalds" ("This restaurant isn't as good as McDonald's")
IN GENERAL CONVERSATION: "Voulez-vous cesser de me cracher dessus pendant que vous parlez?" ("Would you stop spitting on me while you're talking?")
WHEN AN INSULT IS REQUIRED: "On t'a bercé trop près du mur?" ("As a child, was your cradle rocked too close to the wall?")

Bo: A bargain at twice the price

I just figured out what Bo costs us in dog food. We order it in 33-pound sacks from dogfooddirect.com. We're on a schedule of a sack of Eagle Pack Premium Adult Formula about every 4 months, making Bo's food costs a mere 34 cents a day.

What a bargain! Where else can you get that much love and loyalty for such a great price?

Daylight Savings Makes Me Grumpy.

I am jet-lagged. A one-hour time change is all it took and I'm a wreck. A whiny, grumpy, negativistic wreck. Grrrr! Of course the fact that we have a wind advisory out tonight and an expected low temperature of 5 above overnight, with a high only of 20 F. tomorrow, doesn't help. I am whining for springtime.

Why can't we just settle on a time and quit switching? It's not honestly Daylight Savings time that really irritates me, it's the switching. Let's just settle on something and stick with it!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Blibber-blabber


That's a picture of the coffee I was roasting this morning. I tried using my old steel wok and it works better than the cast iron frying pans I usually use. I love the smell of roasting coffee beans, but I'm a little weird. You knew that. Right?

I migrated north for the weekend to visit my parents in Roseville. Barry and the kids stayed at home. I needed to check on my parents, of course, but more selfishly, I wanted to pray with them. They are very faithful in their prayers and I miss being with them in prayer. It was so good.

We hit ALDI, did some mall-walking, and then stopped by Dick Blick Art Supply for inspiration. I ate a lot of my mom's wonderful cooking, and we took turns reading parts of "The Kalahari Typing School for Men" to each other. And then just as I was about to head home, a friend of the next-door neighbor's stopped by to see if my parents had a key to the neighbor's house, as he had not been answering his phone, had not made it to church that morning and now the friend saw the weekend's newspapers on the front step. My dad hurried over with his key, and they found the neighbor on the floor of his bedroom, dead. My dad was very distraught that he had not been checking on the neighbor every day. I doubt he could have done anything to change things, as it looked like the death was sudden; I doubt the man suffered. My dad is suffering, though, and the neighbor's wife, children and grandchildren certainly will. I'm praying for comfort for all of them.

On the drive home I discovered that in the Twin Cities there is actually a Minnesota Public Radio station that plays rock music. Well, rock alternative, and jazz, and rap. Lots of indie stuff. I don't get out much, as I am sure you have gathered, and so I heard some new-to-me music that I really liked. For example, I heard a couple of tracks from K'Naan's new album, Troubadour. I am not a rap fan, but I like this guy's sound. And he truly does come from the mean streets. It doesn't get much meaner than Mogadishu. And then there was The Bird and the Bee. I heard the Diamond Dave track off their newest, "Ray Guns are Not Just the Future." (With a title like that, how can it not be awesome?) For some weird reason they remind me of the B52s. And that makes no sense whatsoever. I cannot even find anything similar about them to the B52s. They just remind me. Anyway, now I'm catching up on their older tracks and enjoying them. What a lovely voice the Bird has. Plus she has a great name: Inara.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

That really wow house


Here it is. Looks like our friends are going for it! I am anxious to see what they do with it. This view is from the back, so you can see the outbuildings. George is a potter, as in art pottery. One of those buildings, maybe the old carriage house, is going to become his studio. He wants to get back on the Arts Tour when the dust settles. I'm so happy! New Albin needs more artists! Now maybe I can get Barry to put something together for the tour, too.




On a completely different topic, I woke up with a horrible sinus headache, the sort that makes one wonder about amputation. Of one's head. Four Advil and a stomach ache later (Advil first thing in the morning - NOT a good idea) I have abandoned the amputation plan, but I am not bending over, or bouncing up and down stairs. And everybody in the house is being very, very quiet around me.

I'm trying to see this positively. Weather change will do this to me. Maybe the change is a lovely warm front coming through and bringing springtime.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Star Block #10

Star Block #9

Watchmen?? Oh yah, it's great. (What is it again?)



Count me as one of those idiots who
1) has never read Watchmen, and
2) can't wait to see the movie anyway.

At least I am not a poser, I admit I know nothing about it (though I do know Dr. Manhattan is not a chick). My son, on the other hand, is one of those who tries to make it sound like he has a clue what it's all about, though he has never actually even seen the graphic novel. Heh.