Monthly Archives: July 2009

Bookish Wednesday

Ralph Truitt is a wealthy Wisconsin widower who places an advertisement for a wife.  Catherine Land is the woman who answers the ad and arrives in a small snowy Wisconsin town to begin a new life.  A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick is very well-written and keeps your interest and attention.  This is a book with something for everyone — deception, depravity, subterfuge, attempted murder, forgiveness and redeeming love.  Well worth your time to read.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell was a fun read.  I enjoyed it so much that I have purchased two copies as birthday gifts.  And I am sure you have seen the movie previews with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.  After reading this, I placed a request for My Life in France by Julia Child.  With Powell’s book and the pending movie release, I am sure there will be a rekindled interest in Child’s cooking shows, her books, and French cooking in general.  One of my favorite parts of the book is the first time Powell searches for a marrow bone for one of the recipes.  She sends her husband and brother out to scour New York City for the marrow bone.  They finally score it and bring it home for her.  Julia’s instructions are to use a cleaver to split the bone.  Julie does not have a cleaver and tries to do it unsuccessfully with the biggest knife she has.  She then writes, “Julia must have had the strength of ten secretaries…” Then she and the husband attempt to split the bone with a jig saw.  I found the marrow bone episode to be very funny.

I am nearly finished with The Last Supper, A Summer in Italy by Rachel Cusk.  It has been an interesting read.  Lots of descriptions and pictures of the works of art she saw in Italy.  Lots of history and biography of the artists.

More digression from my summer reading list.  I have The Girls from Ames at home and need to read it soon.  I got more books from the library yesterday — Six Months in Sudan which is about a young doctor with Doctors Without Borders who spends 6 months in Abyei — I believe it was in 2007; The House of Lost Souls by Francis Cottam; The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa; and several books from the Inspector Montalbano mystery series written by Andrea Camilleri.  I don’t read many mysteries anymore, but these are set in Sicily and since I lived there for 2.5 years I enjoy them.

I actually knit a dishcloth this week.  I have hardly knit anything all summer.  On Saturday I met my friend Nancy for lunch and we talked about our Sudan experiences and things we would/will do differently if/when we go again.  Later that day while I was in the kitchen making eggplant parmagiana with my farm market eggplant, I was musing about different things and I remembered something Nancy told me a couple of years ago.  That if you give an African woman a bar of soap you have given her a precious gift.  So I am knitting dishcloths — well, actually to be used as wash cloths.  It occurred to me that brightly colored cotton knit cloths — and I have a large quantity of dishcloth cotton in my many tubs of yarn — and bars of soap would be great gifts for the Sudanese women when the next team goes.  My plan at this point in time is that I will be on the team that goes in the fall of 2010 — but who knows? 

I have been feeling creative since the end of last week.  Now I need to put that creativity into action.  The knit cloths are one thing.  I have been reading books about mixed media art lately.  The fashionista has dabbled in mixed media art off and on.  I have never considered myself to be much of an artist, but I have worked out a piece in my head that I want to create.  A cathartic piece.  So after I went to the farm market on Saturday morning I headed over to Michael’s and purchased a stretched canvas and a bottle of gesso as a start.  I need to find a few small things that I want to use for this piece — I have some of them and I need to do some thrifting for the others.  I plan to do some thrifting this evening while running a few errands.  When I have all the items I want to use, then I will start mapping the piece out on paper until it suits me and then go to the canvas.


Once Upon a Thursday in July

There was a woman who was at the office — but didn’t really want to be.  Her mind was going over all the other things she could be doing if she was not at the office.  She decided to write a short blog entry as a break from the tedium.

I just checked my summer reading list.  Of the books listed, two are still in the hold queue at the library, one is waiting to be read, and I have not yet located a copy of the fourth. The others have already been read.

I just finished reading Julie and Julia by Julie Powell.  Soon to be in your local theaters in movie format starring Amy Adams as Julie Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child.  This book was not on my summer reading list, but what the heck.  I read it in a little under 48 hours.  And laughed all the way through it.  I must see the movie.  The fashionista has already mentioned that it is a film we should see together.

And I began a new book this morning — The Last Supper, A Summer in Italy by Rachel Cusk.  True story about a family from England moving to Italy for 3 months.  Not too far into it yet.

I am also perusing a book on creating art journals.  I usually tend to just skim read art and/or craft books.  This one I am reading page by page. 

Last night it was a nice evening.  The fashionista and I shared a CPK Margherita Pizza and then she went to work.  I took the pug for a walk at the park.  It was great to be outside.  And then I weeded the front flower bed and watered the flowers.

I have two new dvds to watch — He’s Just Not That Into You and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  Talk about polar opposites…..

I even picked up some knitting and worked on it this week — I knitted 4 heel flap repeats on the second Hedgerow sock.  I have been avoiding my knitting this summer.  Not sure why.

A friend of mine gave me two old acoustic guitars to refurbish and take to Sudan.  Awesome!  I have been thinking about going back.  I think there is more I can do.  And I decided if I went back I wanted to take a guitar or two with me to leave there with those I taught.  They have access to a guitar in the mission compound, but it is not the same as having your own instrument.  One is an old TrueTone and the other is an old Stella — but they are in pretty good shape.  They need to be cleaned up, new strings, maybe a couple of tuning pegs replaced.  I have over a year, so perhaps this is the sign that I am to return to Sudan.  Most members of my family do not believe I should.  Only the fashionista has said that I should go.

This evening is praise team practice.  Not sure what I will do after that.  I have many things around the house I should be doing — the never ending pile of ironing, mending, altering slacks, cleaning, reorganizing, knitting, transposing music, reading, watch a movie, ride my bike, play with the pug, drink wine.  Hmmmm. The last one sounds the best!

Bookish Wednesday

Another digression from my summer reading list.  This book is a quick read, and the story line is a familiar theme.  Disengaged family due to tragedy.  SandraKaye’s great uncle is murdered in his neighborhood and her adopted Guatemalan son leaves their Texas home to find his birth mother.  SandraKaye’s surgeon husband spends more time than usual at the hospital and her other teenage son, Chris, becomes more and more distant.  SandraKaye finds herself going over to Poppy’s old neighborhood which has become territory for the poor, drugs, gangs, etc.  In giving an elderly woman a ride back to an apartment, she sees children rummaging through a dumpster and later realizes they were looking for food.  The next day she makes up a bag of peanut butter sandwiches and goes back.  She meets Cass who is 12 but claims to be 17 and has a story of her own.  The book is called The Summer Kitchen and is written by Lisa Wingate.  I don’t want to give too much of it away, so I encourage you to read it if you are interested.

Eco-Craft by Susan Wasinger has 30 craft projects.  The beginning of the book is a preface to the projects and discusses turning and living “green.”  The projects are divided into four categories — decorate, create, illuminate and celebrate.  I think this book has something for everyone.  Since I am a knitter, I always look for knitting in various craft books that I read. I was taken with a sweater rug created from felting wool sweaters and cutting them into strips, then knitting the strips on big fat needles.  Totes, trays, birdhouse, painted bottle vases, a towel rack from CD cases, baby jar chandelier — if you want to try environmentally friendly crafts with recycled and reused items from your home, then check out this book.

Since the fashionista has a pug that she likes to dress up, I got a book from the library called Canine Couture, 25 Projects: Fashion & Lifestyle Accessories for Designer Dogs which is authored by Lilly Shahravesh.  There are some fun and interesting projects if you want to spoil your dog (or make them miserable).  A personalized food mat, squeaky toy bone (and you can purchase the squeakers at a local pet store), collar and leash, sweaters, scarves and legwarmers, even a velvet smoking jacket and hot water bottle cover.  Most of the projects in this book are sewn, but there are a few knitted items.  I don’t know that I would spend the time making anything for the pug, but we enjoyed looking at the book.

Last night I finished reading A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, and will save it for next week’s post.

Happy Reading!

First Day of the Work Week

Ah, the dreaded Monday has come around again.  But it was cool and rainy when I left for the office, so that wasn’t too bad.  Have many projects to work on — but that is a good thing in these economic times.

The fashionista and I went to the local zoo on Saturday.  One of the radio stations had a listener appreciation day, and I picked up $2 admission coupons — score!  Zoo admission is $11, so I saved $9 each for admission.  We got there when it opened early in the a.m. and we were outta there by the time the major crowds began to arrive.  I missed the farm market, but we still have plenty of veggies, so it was not a big deal.  I saw animals I have never seen out before, so that was cool.  And it was a cool morning for July, so it turned out to be a perfect day to go to the zoo.  We saw the Humboldt penguins, river otters, the new Tiger Trek exhibit, a grizzly bear, gorillas, orangutans, chimps, colubus monkeys, giraffes, hippos, Mexican wolves, okapi, the rain forest exhibit, reptiles (the fashionista loves turtles and tortoises, but not snakes), a male lion, black rhinos, elephants — among other animals.  It put me in the mood to talk about the safari I went on in March.  And I told the fashionista about going to the Kansas City zoo as a child and an elephant reaching through the bars and feeling my bare kneecap with his/her trunk.

We went to On the Border for Saturday lunch.  And then did a bit of shopping.  She wanted to go to her favorite store in the mall.  Since she had her own money, I agreed to tag along.  Actually my favorite clothing store had an extra 30-50% off summer clearance, and I bought a 3/4 sleeve black tee for 9.99, a blue and green print summer jacket ($65 regular price) for $9.99, and two short sleeve tees for $6.98 each, one of which is the perfect shade of purple to match one of the skirts I bought there at the beginning of the month. I was very happy with my bargains.

Saturday evening I cleaned up a bit around the house and hung out with the pug while the fashionista was at work.  Did some laundry, vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen, cleaned the rabbit cage, and dusted.  Lit candles and watched Primeval with a glass of riesling. The fashionista called and asked if I could wash a couple of outfits for her as after work she and several co-workers were going to drive to Oklahoma (about 1.5 hours away) to a casino.  I told her not to take much money.  She was excited to go — new experience.  She played the slots and lost $25 and stopped. She spent most of the time watching her friends lose money.  Luckily, she doesn’t understand cards and gambling and all that and really has no desire to learn.

Yesterday she was still sleeping when I got home from church, so I spent some time in the kitchen making food.  Lima bean artichoke salad, insalata caprese, zucchini feta salad.  I cleaned out the fridge and rearranged some things in the pantry.  I need to reorganize and clean out the freezer space.  Perhaps that will be this evening’s project.

She decided to redo her room — going totally pink.  With all the dorm stuff in the stores, this is a good time to do it.  She bought a plain pink comforter — pale pink on one side and a brighter pink on the other.  Pale pink sheets.  Both on sale.  We found a floor lamp with pink shades on sale.  A bedrest pillow in bright pink — she likes to have one on her bed when she reads.  A pink body pillow with polka dots — again on sale.  She loves Hello Kitty, so she bought a Hello Kitty pillow.  A round pillow with polka dots.  I had a coupon to a local discount store for 20% off my entire purchase yesterday, so we went there and she found pink sheer curtains for her windows and inexpensive curtain rods, light bulbs, and a few other odds and ends.  So she was busy last night in her room while I made a late supper.

Bookish Wednesday

Shanghai Girls is written by Lisa See who also wrote Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, both of which I also read.  Shanghai Girls is the story of May and Pearl when they are young women.  The story begins in Shanghai in the late 1930s and ends during the Chairman Mao days.  May and Pearl are beautiful young women from a privileged background, but their father needs to pay off gambling debts and sells them as brides to a Chinese businessman for his sons.  The businessman and his family live in America and May and Pearl have no desire to live in America and try to thwart the plans.  They do end up going to America and finding that all is not as they have been told. But they too have their secrets, such as the daughter May gives birth to and Pearl raises as her own.   The book is about the relationship of the sisters and how their lives evolve.  The ending of the book will leave you anticipating a sequel.  I enjoyed reading this.

The Sweet Life in Paris is authored by David Lebovitz, who is a pastry chef, chocoholic, author of cookbooks, and food blogger.  He left a comfortable life in San Francisco to live in a cramped apartment in Paris.  The book is about his adjustment to life in Paris and Parisians, and is also filled with recipes.  Many of the recipes contain chocolate — no surprise.  I too like good chocolate — but I can also live without it.  I did enjoy reading about his adventures in Paris, and I also love reading recipes.  I am tempted to try his recipe for madeleines, dulce de leche brownies, warm goat cheese salad, fig-olive tapenade, and the tomato and sourdough bread salad.  They all sounded yummy.

I have been buying fresh sweet corn at the farm market, and rather than roasting it AGAIN in the oven, I gave the fashionista a new recipe to try on Monday.  And she made it — but said it was a lot of work.  She had to cut the kernels off four ears of corn, which she had never done before.  The corn salad she made turned out very well, and we will definitely make this recipe again.  The salad consists of fresh corn kernels, a diced avocado, diced fresh mozzarella, and halved grape or cherry tomatoes.  The dressing is fresh cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper put through the blender or food processor.

Saturday after the farm market I headed over to Thai Binh, an Asian market close to where we live.  I found a recipe for an Asian noodle salad that I want to make, so I was shopping for ingredients.  I bought some fresh vegetables there also — a package of three Chinese eggplants marked down to $1.33, cilantro, napa cabbage, limes 5/$1 — in addition to the fish sauce, vegetarian soy sauce, and rice vermicelli.  Oh — and green beans since the farm market had none.  I think I will buy more of my produce there — it is less expensive than the chain grocery stores and likely fresher.

I needed to do something right away with the eggplants, so I made a ratatouille with sliced eggplant, zucchini, kalamata olives, onion, garlic, olive oil, and an assortment of tomatoes.  I say assortment because I threw in a can of seasoned diced tomatoes, a handful of grape tomatoes, and two yellow tomatoes that needed to be used asap.  The fashionista was not sure about the ratatouille, but we had it for dinner and she topped hers with plain yogurt. We also had feta and olives, pita, and a bit of hummus.  Made a lovely dinner.  And she said she would definitely eat it again.

I want to make the noodle salad soon, and I have been craving vegetable fried rice since we ate some at Pei Wei a couple of weeks ago.  And I have been searching for more zucchini and yellow squash recipes.

Weekend Plans

Ah, Friday afternoon — nearly time for the weekend.  I am ready for a break from the office.  I got out for a bit today and met a friend for lunch.  I had a fattouch salad and a cup of lentil soup.  The lentil soup was very good.

I hope to get a few things done this weekend.  I was thinking last night that I need to make a summer bucket list and do all the things on the list.  Some projects, but some fun things as well.

I plan to make my usual trip to the local farm market tomorrow. I hope to buy some green beans this week.  The corn I bought last week was good, so I will buy another 1/2 dozen ears.  I roasted the broccoli last night, so I need more of that.

I tried a new recipe last night.  I cooked spaghettini and made a parsley sauce and then added blue cheese crumbles.  Blue cheese and pasta — who would have thunk it?  I liked it and will definitely make it again.  I ate roasted broccoli with it.  Great meal.

The lasagna rolls turned out great.  I cooked 8 lasagna noodles.  I laid a noodle out flat and then spooned on ricotta cheese, marinara sauce and then a baby spinach leaf or two.  Rolled it up and put it in a baking dish.  When all the rolls were done, I poured the remaining marinara over the top, sprinkled with mozzarella and baked.  Then I put a container of mixed greens salad in the fridge to go with the rolls.

I think this weekend I will make the lima bean-artichoke heart salad again and serve it with bruschetta.  Not sure what else I will make.  Perhaps some curried egg salad sandwiches.  Insalata caprese is a must.  I have two good size yellow tomatoes and two red tomatoes to use up.

We had a thunderstorm and hail blow through on Wednesday night.  Some areas of town got the tennis ball/baseball size hail — mine did not — and I am very grateful for that.  Three years ago I lost both windshields in my car to that kind of hail and would hate for it to happen again.  I do have a few new dings here and there — I hope they pop out with the 100+ temps.  We had nickel to quarter size hail, and a lot of it!  It sure did a number on my tomato plants, my herbs, and my roses. 

I have some books to pick up from the library.  I want to get some of my safari photos up on the blog and on Facebook. I would like to go to the acoustic arts assoc. concert in a local park tomorrow — if it is not too hot out.  It starts at 11 a.m. and ends around 2 p.m.

This week’s local music theater production is Kiss Me, Kate, and I have season tickets for Sunday afternoons this year, so that is where you can find me on Sunday afternoon.

Ah, how to fit everything in?  It appears that this weekend will indeed go by too quickly as most do.

By the way, I did find the soy hot dogs and the fashionista made chili cheese dogs with vegetarian chili and cheddar cheese and they were yummy.

Bookish Wednesday

This past week I deviated a bit from my summer reading list.  I found a book at the library which called out to me — Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska by Miranda Weiss.  Alaska is a place that has always fascinated me.  I have fantasies of moving to a remote cabin there where I can devote myself to drinking tea, knitting and playing music along with some cross country skiing.  However, all the books I have read about living in Alaska have clued me in to the difficulty of living there.  And this book by Miranda Weiss is no different.  She makes it very clear that not understanding the environment around you in Alaska can be fatal.  The book is beautifully written and I found it fascinating and hard to put down. 

The author grew up on the East Coast but had a fascination with Alaska.  She eventually meets a young man and moves with him to Homer, Alaska where the tides are extreme and the people stay grounded with the knowledge of fish, tides, boats and weather.  Weiss endures much hard physical work to live in Alaska, but gives us glimpses into the wildlife of the area — from the marine life in tidepools to the local birds and moose.

I am currently reading one of the books on my reading list, Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, and will write about that next week. 

I watched a couple of dvds over the weekend, New in Town with Rene Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr.  A predictable story line of career woman goes to small town Minnesota with an agenda set by a big corporation and becomes close to the locals and falls in love and thwarts the big corporation.  The other dvd I watched was Last Chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, and I liked the story line in it much better. 

My holiday weekend was nothing out of the ordinary.  The fashionista has a friend who is attending the new Paul Mitchell hair school here.  We went out there on Friday afternoon to have our hair done so she can get more experience.  She had cut and bleached the fashionista’s hair a few weeks ago, so the fashionista got a “shine” treatment.  It really brightened the color.  I had mine color balanced, all over color and a partial weave (highlights) and cut.  About a third of what I used to pay — but this took ALL afternoon.  But she is a student — the fashionista says she is at the top of her class — and she did a great job.  I was very happy with it and gave her a nice tip.

Saturday morning I went to the farm market to buy veggies.  I wanted green beans, but none were available at the two markets I went to — darn.  I had to content myself with yellow and red tomatoes, bicolor corn, broccoli, spinach, and sprouts.  At one market I also bought a jar of locally made salsa.  I am trying hard to buy local as much as possible.

The fashionista wanted to do some shopping Saturday afternoon, so we spent several hours at the mall.  I bought myself a few things also.  My favorite women’s clothing store had 4 items, regular or sale, for 40% off.  I found 4 items on sale and then got another 40% off.  I bought a knit top to wear with khakis or jeans, a short sleeve cotton cardigan sweater, and two skirts.  One is a plain black cotton twill skirt, and I have needed to purchase a new black skirt for quite some time.

I did make some food over the weekend.  I made a broccoli slaw — found a non sweet dressing recipe — very easy!  Packaged broccoli slaw mix, and then the dressing is simply 1/4 cup mayo, 1/4 cup plain yogurt, juice of 1/2 lemon, salt and pepper.  Most slaw dressings are too sweet for me.  The fashionista liked this also.  Saturday dinner was veggie burgers, roasted corn, and broccoli slaw. 

I also tried a new pasta salad recipe — spiral pasta, pesto, peas, grape tomatoes, pine nuts, chopped green olives.  I added a few capers also.

And I made hummus in my food processor.  It turns out so much better than in the blender.  One of our favorite little places near Old Town makes a wonderful pita sandwich, and I have the ingredients to create my own.  It is simply a pita pocket with hummus, red onion, cucumber, tomato, grated Monterey Jack cheese, and sprouts.  I think I will make this for tonight’s dinner.  It will be a quick and easy dinner for me. The fashionista is working, and I told her I would make lasagna rolls so that she could have something hot when she gets home late tonight.