Monday, October 3, 2022

Sometimes Monday ...

 ... looks like a day for meal planning. 

Ryan's birthday is on Friday and since he's now local, I'm making dinner for him. He lives by himself and even though he enjoys cooking, it gets to be a bit of a drag sometimes. My grandmother always said that food tastes better when somebody you love makes it for you, and I definitely think that is true. So I wanted to make him some good things, but not necessarily difficult, complicated, or fancy. I looked through my recipe box for inspiration and here's what I arrived at. 
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Beans (from the garden)
  • Watergate Salad (from John's mother)

  • Mrs. O'Neill's Pound Cake - she was Ryan's 7th grade English teacher and one of the best bakers I know. I feel very lucky that she wrote the recipe out for me one day, and once I confirmed that she had forgotten a few things, it was perfect.

The pound cake is the best if it's made a day ahead of time, so that's what I'll be doing on Thursday. 

I can hardly wait to taste all these. They are some of Ryan's favorites (and if I'm honest, mine, too)!

Friday, September 30, 2022

Time For a Change

Our neighbor is a great guy. He's always ready with a friendly wave and more in-depth conversations a few times each year but he's never nosy or noisy. He's almost always outdoors, planting mums, patching bare spots in his lawn, repairing downspouts, and sometimes even brushing sand out of the cracks in his patio pavers. His last name is Potter and we've started saying "we're Pottering today" if we are doing low-key maintenance tasks around the house. 

His summer project has been to take down the wooden shutters on his house, prime and paint them by hand, and put them back up. He has 18 pairs of shutters so this is a project that has taken him much of the summer. John has observed all of this and decided he needed to paint our shutters. 

When we bought the house the shutters were dark green, which I quite liked. 

Somewhere along the line (probably 15 years ago or so), John decided that they would look better painted red, so that's what he did. 

Our shutters are metal, just decorative, and there are only nine pairs of them plus some lower window trim that will need to be painted, but it's not nearly as big a project as our neighbor's. John started on Wednesday, swore at the sprayer when it clogged after 10 seconds, and bought a fancy new one, so now he has to finish the job. Guess what color our shutters are now? 

They're Ford Blue, and they're quite bright. He did buy tractor paint, so I'm glad he didn't choose New John Deere Yellow or Kubota Orange.

John asked what I thought (I wasn't consulted before this project got started) and I asked him if it mattered. (I know it doesn't now that there are eight shutters painted.) I don't think it will look nearly as nice with my usual Christmas decor of wrapping the columns like peppermint sticks, but I didn't have to do anything*, so that sort of works for me. With his attention to detail, John has also painted the hardware. 

I'll post a few photos when all the shutters are painted, put back on the house, and the window trim is painted. I do hope all that gets done before it gets too cold (and before I have to help paint). 

Wishing you all a good weekend! We're supposed to get rain from tropical storm Ian (which we still really need) so I don't think there will be much painting going on here.

* ETA: I did have to do something! Thursday afternoon John decided to take down the second-story shutters to paint them, and they were a bit more difficult. I had to help carry the terribly heavy wooden 40-foot extension ladder up from the barn and then hold the bottom while John climbed up to unscrew the shutters. Then I had to go halfway up the ladder to bring down the shutters as he handed them to me. It's a wonder neither of us was injured, but we do still have to put the shutters back up after they are painted. I am not looking forward to that!

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Venturing Out

We hadn't been on any sort of summer vacation, having spent much of the summer working in the garden, blanching and freezing produce from the garden, working on Justin's house, and complaining about the heat and humidity (that was mostly me). Once the weather started to change and John's sister and BiL extended an invitation, we headed to northern PA for five days. 

We hiked near their house quite a bit, ate some delicious meals (that were especially good because my SiL cooked for us and I barely had to do anything), enjoyed cocktail hours with wonderful vodka & tonics, and made a trip up to Watkins Glen. I was a bit surprised that hardly any of the trees had started to change, but the weather was delightfully fall-like.

The temperature was only 46 when we were hiking in Watkins Glen, and there were whitecaps on Seneca Lake due to the 40 mph winds. A bit chilly but still absolutely wonderful. 


I took a ton of pictures but I won't bore you with all of them. If you ever get a chance to visit, it's a beautiful place and a bit of a workout if you walk all the way to the top and back down. 

We did walk around the town of Watkins Glen and visited a lovely yarn shop, but I managed to resist the yarn fumes. We also visited Ben & Jerry's and enjoyed some ice cream despite the chilly temperatures. 

It wasn't quite long enough and sadly we had to return to real life where I'm forced to make dinner and nobody makes me cocktails. (I might need to do something about that!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Unraveled Wednesday: 9/28/22

I'm happy to join Kat and fellow Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, with a finished Watercolor Rainbow Hitchhiker. 

I do like all the rainbows and the four teeth of fluffy clouds in the sky that I finished with, so despite my previous threats that it might be gifted, I think I'll keep it for myself. 

Here's a slightly goofy picture that I asked Ryan to take in his backyard. We took a million of them, and believe it or not, this was the best one out of the bunch. (That's John lurking/working in the garden.)

I haven't actually started it yet, but there may be some needle felting in my future. My SiL gave me this kit last weekend after she decided that needle felting wasn't for her. She stabbed herself one too many times, but I'm not on Eliquis anymore, so I can probably stand a needle poke or two. 

After Queen Elizabeth died I was feeling kind of sad, so I rewatched the last three seasons of The Crown. I think I enjoy the show almost more than watching or reading about the real monarchy, so I checked out The Official Companion to The Crown, Volumes 1 and 2. I'm enjoying paging through these books, and I especially like how they compare reality with the series so I have a better idea of what was emphasized for drama. 

I'm also listening to the audio version of The Marriage Plot. It's narrated by Genevieve Gaunt and she does an excellent job with all of the 16th-century Italian intrigue.

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Read With Us: It's a New Fall Book!

Today's the day we announce a new Read With Us book for fall! You might already be aware of this if you attended the Zoom discussion for Sorrow and Bliss, but now everyone will know. Would you like to read a book inspired by a poem describing a painting portraying a young woman who actually lived in 16th-century Italy? 

You can have all of that and more (but no nuns!) in our new fall book, The Marriage Portrait, by Maggie O' Farrell. O'Farrell has taken a little-known historical figure and Robert Browning's poem "The Last Duchess" and written a book with evocative descriptions and interesting characters. Lucrezia de' Medici was married at 15 to the Duke of Ferrara; this seems awfully young by today's standards, but her marriage was delayed several years through the clever plottings of her nursemaid, Sofia. Eventually, Lucrezia is married to Alfonso d’Este, ruler of Ferrara, Modena, and Reggio, and she is left to determine whether her husband is the caring person he has presented himself as or whether he wants to kill her. I don't want to say much more and spoil this intriguing story, but I think you'll enjoy this engaging and compelling novel, 

I was lucky enough to eye-read a pre-publication copy, but I'm currently listening to the audio version from the library and I just had a short wait. It's available from Amazon for only $14.99 for Kindle and $24.80 for a hardback copy. The audio version is also available from Audible. If you're lucky enough to have a local independent bookstore, I'm sure you'll be able to find a copy there. 

Kym, Carole, and I will be talking about the book, giving additional information, and doing promotional posts throughout October. Discussion day for The Marriage Portrait is scheduled for January 10, 2023, at 7:00 pm Eastern time, so mark your calendars. We'll ask questions on our blogs that day and then host the always fun, educational, and entertaining Zoom discussion.

"In 1560, fifteen-year-old Lucrezia di Cosimo de’ Medici left Florence to begin her married life with Alfonso II d’Este Duke of Ferrara. Less than a year later, she would be dead. The official cause of death was given as "putrid fever", but it was rumored that she had been murdered by her husband."

Did Lucrezia's husband succeed in killing her? I hope you'll Read With Us and find out!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Unraveled Wednesday: 9/21/22

I'm happy to join Kat and fellow Unravelers for Unraveled Wednesday, with some more Hitchhiker rainbows.

With your kind comments last week, I have been feeling a little more kindly towards how the rainbows are looking broken up as the rows lengthen. Jane said they looked like watercolor rainbows and that's how I've been thinking of them. I have an idea for the end of the Hitchhiker and I'll see if that looks as good in practice as it does in my mind.

I finished listening to Stephen King's Fairy Tale and it was wonderful. During the pandemic, Stephen King asked himself: “What could you write that would make you happy?” The result is Fairy Tale, and it made me happy, too. Even though it doesn't begin with "Once upon a time", this is a fairy tale (just not a whitewashed Disney version) combined with just the right amount of fantasy, horror, and adventure for me. Because it's authored by Stephen King, the storylines take a while to get somewhere, but I think that is time worth spending (24 hrs. for the audiobook, 600 pgs. for the hardcover). There were a couple of times that I thought the story dragged, but much of it is necessary for the images that King is describing. For me, this book had everything - good, evil, fantasy, horror, love, hate, right, wrong, and an immersive story well told. 4.5 stars rounded up. 

Miss Marple is one of my favorite literary characters so I had been looking forward to the publication of Marple: Twelve New Mysteries. This is a collection of twelve new Miss Marple stories by twelve current-day bestselling authors. Like any collection, some stories are better than others. My verdict was that Agatha Christie did it much better. 

What are you making and reading this week?


I'm taking a few days off for a little bit of end-of-summer vacation. I'll see you back here next week!

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Too Hot

When John first decided that he was going to put in a garden at Ryan's house, Ryan requested that we plant a few hot peppers. (If you're a recent reader or don't remember why we don't just garden at our house in NJ, you can read the reasons why here.)

John is not a gardener that plants one or two of anything, so since we had seeds started for about 14 hot pepper plants, that's what got planted in the garden. I might have mentioned something like that seemed like way too many to me, but nobody was listening. So now we have loads of hot peppers. The ones on the left are Tridents, similar to Poblano with a Scoville Heat rating of 25-1500. I've found them to be edible on nachos, but John can't eat them at all. The red ones on the right are Red Embers, similar to Cayenne with 30,000-50,000 Scoville Heat Units. 

What you see above is just a small picking from one week. We've given away peppers to one of Justin's friends and all of the heat-loving Hispanics that work on the grounds crew with Justin, but we still have too many. I decided to pickle some and see if that would mellow them enough for me. 

So I set to work one day, chopping and de-seeding peppers in preparation to pickle them with this recipe. Things went okay with the Trident peppers and I got a whole quart. The trouble started after I had cut up about 10 of the Red Embers. I was coughing and gagging so much from just the pepper fumes that I had to quit. I ended up pickling just what I had cut up, but that was only about enough for half of a pint jar. 

They've been sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, and I think that pickling did help tone down the heat a little bit. I can eat the Tridents by themselves (they're actually quite tasty with lots of flavor and a little heat) and one or two of the Red Ember pieces. I'm still the only one that can eat them here, so I guess I'll be enjoying nachos for one all winter. Guess what we won't be planting next year? Hot Peppers!

I think we'll be trying watermelons and cantaloupe instead; there is no heat to worry about with either one of them!


Be sure to stop by Carole's blog today for her Read With Us wrap-up of Sorrow and Bliss, and stay tuned for the announcement of the Fall Read With Us selection next week. (It's a good one!)