Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Snapshot

I am linking this to At Home With Books, where Alyce hosts "Saturday Snapshot".

Stop by and check it out.


There is a Stephen King Reading Challenge going around.  It first caught my attention at  Bibliophile By the Sea, where Diane had the link to the original sources,  Coffee and a  Book Chick, (where there is another really cool meme called A Walk Around Town, that I just discovered ) and  Boarding in My Forties.

I love Stephen King.  The Stand is one of my all time favorite books. 
 This looks like  fun challenge to join, but I'm trying to stay away from  "joining" challenges this year, (because I never follow thru, or when I do there is so much pressure put on myself by me, I am just staying away this year)   although I do plan on reading some Stephen King for my own pleasure--his newest,  11/22/63,  is on the top of my list.

One thing I find interesting about King's novels, is that quite a lot of the evil,  takes place in the state of Nevada.  (or Maine.  We feel your pain Maine.) 
Evil  (Randall Flag in the Stand) walks along the lonely desert highways in  The Stand,   There is a made-up town of Desperation, Nevada in Desperation.  And there are other books by other authors who use Nevada for the evil setting -- I think Dean Koontz  uses Nevada for aliens in Strangers.

I find that interesting and kind of funny.   Why?  Why do they want to mark us as evil?  Is evil desolate?  Bleak?  Gloomy?      
Well....I guesssss   we do make a good  "setting" for the story.

JUST LOOK---
(but you must take a vow not to be judgemental.    Every place has it's beauty.  Some are just better than others  to describe evil...to set the scene for wickedness   ~smiles~ )



A couple of summers ago, we went on a picnic out in the desert to the Lovelock Caves. 
Just and 'evil' hole in the mountain...not nearly as big or as famous or as touristy trapping (if that's even a phrase)   as other state's caves.   In fact, they are little known  (good for horror novels I suppose), and we were the only ones there that day.  (We as in 13 of us.  MAN!  Is that an evil coincidence or what?  13?  The bad luck number--and Stephen King horror/evil references all in one post? )
(i hope you know I'm joking)

The evil landscape as we drove to the caves...
taken while riding in the car.




Our evil hike begins.





My grandson Camron at the entrance of the caves.



Inside the  evil caves.



The Caves are up there on that hill.  



This picture just shows how "evil" the weather can be.
It can change in a moments notice.
The first one was when we arrived at the caves.
The second one was when we thought we better get the heck out of there before that storm got worse/came over to us.
We needed the  protection of our vehicles.
It was a mix of dust and wind and rain.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Going back to school

Yep, the Handyman and I are going back to school.   With some of our friends.

(I took a few secret snapshots of our class, of course...to document our journey.  These are my friends)


Last night was our first  "Digital Photography" class.  Let me rephrase... that would be:  Art 149, Introduction to Digital Photography.
A  REAL  college course, complete with quizzes  (I didn't know we would have tests for heavens sake!!) and homework and  a "final",  which requires  entering two pieces of our work in an art show.
I was thinking this would be a fun, community-type of class without pressure.
The Handyman says,  "Well it should be a serious class, considering the amount of money we paid!" 
But we'll end up with a college art credit Handyman!!  It's well worth the money.  Just to be spending time with you!  (yes, I'm sucking up--in case he reads my blog)

One other exciting aspect of this class  (besides doing something fun with the Handyman) is that, half the class are friends of ours.   We did a 'couple' thing.  (and also a couple other friends who came without their spouses) 
( a couple other friends.  Funny.  Was that a pun?)

We all met for dinner before class began at  7pm.
This week it was Mexican food.

Then, because we are all old  (I say this joking)  we got tired halfway thru the class.  NOT that it wasn't exciting... IT WAS, but we are all used to going to bed at 9 and the class lasts until 10.  We had full tummys, maybe had a glass of wine or a beer with dinner, the room was warm, and the lecture rhythmic, and as I looked around--I saw sleepy eyes from all of us.
(except for the row of teenagers behind us.)


Mitzi  paying close attention.
Maybe to use for our birding weekend!
click here for birding fun--It just dawned on my that Mitzi is in all my blog posts about birds.


As is Jolina!
Birding friend.
Photography friend.
Bookclub friend.

(that's Doug there on the left)


And the Handyman  (head turned)
and Lorin.



One thing we talked about last night was the fact that Kodak filed bankruptcy yesterday.
That makes me so sad.  Why, you ask?
Besides it being one of the premeir camera/photography companies,  my grandma always called her camera, any camera,  "a kodak".
She would say,  "let me get my kodak and we'll take a picture"  (and then come out with a polaroid or something.)
I don't know why excatly...it just makes me very sad.

I will keep you posted on my photgraphic journeys.  Both in class and out of it.
I'm excited!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rainbow cupcakes

See this cute girl?  She is my niece.  Her name is Devin.  (D.C. -- Cutie Pie)  She loves to cook.  

 I would love to take credit for her love of cooking, because I have a blog, where I feature  food.
Mostly. 
Kind of. 
Not lately really. 

But  I cannot take credit for her love of cooking ....she's just amazing all on her own. She's grown up around food--her mom has a small catering business --  but the thing about Devin is she'll find her own recipes, put her own spin on them and  with her mother's encouragement,  enter the kitchen and create!    Most of all, she just has fun doing it.  She's enthusiastic,  and that's what I love!
Not to mention her creations are quite tasty!!

I'm very excited, because  I will get to see her in a few weeks and I'm hoping for some of the great rainbow cupcakes!

(and Dev....if you hate this picture, I'm sorry.  I stole it from your mom's  album.
I think it's gorgeous tho!! )



or maybe this pic with your brother Nate?
I love this picture too.
May I just say  "ADORABLE!!"

(I can say that because I'm your Aunt, and Aunt's get bragging rights)



When I saw that she had made these cupcakes,  (pics sent to my phone)   I asked her if she wanted to be a guest blogger on my blog.  Lucky for me, she said  YES!



She sat right down and wrote the post. 



"I found these on youtube and I thought they would be fun to make. And I thought they would be hard but they were actually not hard! And they WERE fun! They light up your day.


Get one box of white cake batter and make the mix. Divide them into 6 glasses. Dye each batter into different rainbow color. Layer them from last color to first color (purple,blue, green, orange yellow, red) bake at 325 for 20 minutes. That is it! You can decorate them any way you want."

Love ya !!
 
 
 
How clever is that?
They are so pretty and festive.

 
I can't wait to try one. (okay, I'll be honest, I probably won't stop with just one)
Thanks Devin.
 
As I mentioned before....she has always been creative.
Once she had a pizza making contest with her brother
 
 
 
 
her mom said of her pizza:
Both were yummy but Dev's had pesto, onion rings and fresh mozz balls... Pretty damn good.
 
Oooohhh...pizza!
I'm pretty excited for Grandpa's  80th birthday party  in  February.  I was thinking cupcakes sound perfect,  but  fresh  pesto, onion ring and mozzarella ball pizza sounds great too!
 
It's a hard decision.....but.....but.....
cupcakes  are easier to take to a party!
 
Love you Devin!
and thanks for being my guest blogger.
 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First Chapter

I love First Paragraphs!   I bought this new board game to take with me over Christmas vacation, called  "It was a Dark and Stormy Night".  We were headed to our son and daughter-in-law's and I thought it would be a fun game to play.

Well, I  should have realized it would be fun for Sadie and me, not so, for The Handyman and certainly not for my son Marcus.   They gallantly suffered thru one game.  That was all they could do.
I bought it from  Bas Bleu and they say:
This is officially Bas Bleu's favorite board game ever! The concept is simple: Your opponent reads you the first sentence(s) from a work of great literature--categories include children's books, mysteries, nonfiction, novels, poetry, Shakespeare's plays, and short stories--and you name the title and/or author. Correct answers earn a cute little book token…collect eight and you win. The production value of "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" is top tier, from the wooden pawns and tokens to the "library card catalog" of clue cards. The difficulty of identifying the opening lines varies greatly; we think giving clues makes the game more fun. For adults, two to four players or teams.

examples:
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. --Gabriel Garcia MÁrquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude


When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable looking child ever seen. --Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden






To be honest...it was very difficult...but Sadie and I had fun.  I kept saying to the  grumbling, sighing loudly, slouching men at the table, "but this will be nice to know if you're ever at a dinner party and someone brings up the subject of this book. You'll be glad you know this stuff."

Two things...
1. They didn't care.  They didn't ever think they'd be at a dinner party where someone would bring up  "The Secret Garden"  or  "100 years of Solitude" to  them.  Nor did they have any intention of 'remembering' that stuff.  (first lines of great novels)
2.  My friend  Brenda from Brenda's Canadian Kitchen teases me about using the term,  "dinner party."  So I just thought I'd throw that in there.

(for the record,  there is another book game I am going to buy soon, and make them play: Bookchase.  I think it's good for their characters.  Being well-rounded.  They are going to kill me.)

I digress again!

I'm joining in with Diane at  Bibliophile by the Sea on her  "First Chapter,   First Paragraphs" meme.
Every Tuesday, she'll be posting the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she's decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Feel free to grab the banner and play along. 


This week, I just felt the need for something simple... a cozy mystery.  Something I can cuddle up by the fire to.  I haven't started it yet , so tonight's the night!
Here is my first paragraph  (QUICK!  Name the book and  I'll give you a game piece.  ):
Had CC de Poitiers known she was going to be murdered she might have bought her husband, Richard, a Christmas gift.  She might even have gone to her daughter's end of term pageant at Miss Edward's School for Girls, or 'girths' as CC liked to tease her expansive daughter.  Had CC de Poitiers known the end was near, she might have been at work instead of in the cheapest room the  Ritz in Montreal had to offer.  But the only end she knew was near belonged to a man named Saul.


from "A Fatal Grace" by Louise Penny.
The 2nd in the  Three Pines Mystery series.  




Wow CC!!   

Mean to her daughter and cheating on her husband, while not punishable by murder, certainly deserved something!!

I'll have to let you know how it is as soon as I finish.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Snowy Drive to work

Let me just post the last picture first....



Hey, I live in rural northern Nevada.  It's legal.  (and that's a subject I plan to write a post about soon, but for now...well,  I was just driving to work this morning and this was on the way) 

I sent some pictures to some of my friends of my snowy drive to work.

Shelly said:
So were you driving and clicking???

Karen said:
The last picture showing a sign pointing the way to the brothels. Did you work there today?

Sally said:
Send the third set of pictures, please.  Your drive to work should not end at the brothels!

Um...yes, I was driving in the snow and taking pictures while I was driving.   We were all going 5 miles an hour.
And no....I don't work at the brothels.
I do work at the Visitors Center...where sometimes people ask about the Brothels, and it is my job to "point them in the right direction."   (laughing)
Seriously tho, someone will ask about them once every other year or so.
No one is EVER honest --they make excuses, such as:  I have to make a delivery and I can't find the address.  I told my wife I'd drive by and take a picture.   We just want to see what they look like, we're not going to go in or anything.

I did have one older Italian couple come in once and he wanted to know about the billboards and why it said  "girls, girls, girls."  I told him it was a brothel.  But he didn't quite get that word.  I kept on trying to explain it in  non-emotional way, and he just couldn't figure it out.
All of the sudden his wife said  It's a WHOREHOUSE!   Then he laughed and said,  Oh  "WHOREHOUSE".   They thought that was the most amusing thing ever.
I got a kick out of them.

I am getting ahead of myself....I really do have a whole post written up.....almost....about brothels.  It's quite amusing and enlightening.  I think.   And it fits right in with my cookbook countdown..... as I have the official brothel cookbook.  Cat House Cusine.
(omg....I can't believe I'm actually writing about this!!)






Stay tuned....it should be fun(ny).

more of my drive to work.....   WE NEED the snow!!  So we were all happy.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Snapshot

This is my photo for  Saturday Snapshot  (click the link to get all the details!!)

It is---things in my yard I should have taken care of last fall.






For other photos of yard things I should have taken care of last fall, you could look at my Big Backyard photos.

I'm off to my grandson's basketball game.  Then to the grocery store, then home to make chocolate chip cookies.  
I was planning on rice pudding...and  beer steamed mussels with chorizo tonight, but that plan has changed.  We have been invited to friends for supper.
As the Handyman said....there's always tomorrow

Have a great day!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Club and eating crow

I must......eat crow.

I admit it,  I didn't want to read this book.  Complained to everyone I know about having this as a book choice for bookclub.  Dreaded the thought of such a long, long novel which I didn't want to read in the first place.  
Okay, I'm being a little dramatic--it just wasn't something that called to me, that's all.   But I love the  person who picked it and it was for bookclub after all...where we expand our literary horizons, agree to read what the group has chosen,  so read it I would do.



But...as I eat my crow...and listen to the last hour (on audio) of  Gone With the Wind, I am sad to know that it will end.
I really, really enjoyed the book!    
I'm really glad I finally took the plunge.  It was so much more than just a glorified romance--there was so much history--and it gave such a clear view of a time gone by, Social statuses of that era,  language, customs.
I'm just so doggone happy with myself!  (read that in a southern accent please)

It was a fun read, but the most fun of the evening was having our annual, election of a "Miss"  something or other!  One year it was Miss Congealdiality (jello salad competition) last year it was Miss Hot Dish  (casseroles and hot dish competition), this year it was  an appetizer competition and we elected Miss AppeTEASEr.

Who would it be?   Miss Congealdiality 2009 holds the sash just before voting begins.



It was such a fun evening full of friends and food and  BOOK TALK.

For my appetizer, I made this   Sweet Mustard Shrimp from  A Spoonful of Thyme  ( a great food blog, if you want to check it out)

Here is the recipe:
(note that it says to lay on a bed of greens?  I stopped by the store on my way to book club and they didn't have leaf lettuce only iceberg...not so pretty, especially if you are trying to plate it in the backseat of the car before going into the house like I did.  ~grins~)
(I did not win the title of Miss AppeTEASEr, but everyone LOVED the shrimp.  I would make it again for anything....tastes great, simple and fast.  Perfect)

Sweet Mustard Shrimp


1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
2 tsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
6 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp fresh dill, minced (dried can be used)
2 Tbsp red onion, very finely chopped
2 lbs raw shrimp, peeled, tail on, 21-25 shrimp per pound, cooked


Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl. Whisk in the oil. Stir in the dill and onion. Chill, tightly covered. If you are using fresh shrimp, peel and devein the shrimp. Steam or boil until done. If you are using frozen cooked shrimp, defrost in a colander under cool water, then steam or boil until done. Place the marinade into a large Ziploc bag and add the shrimp. Seal tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve over a bed of greens.


Variation: The fresh uncooked shrimp may be marinated and then placed on a skewer and grilled on the barbecue. Grill over medium heat. When the tails begin to turn pink flip the skewers over and continue to cook until the shrimp tails are pink and the meat is opaque (white.)




A picture of the pretty table ......
.....and then.....
....THEN
The Revealing!!
 
 
 
The excitement builds....who will it be?
 
 
Mayor  (that isn't a made up title, she really is the mayor of our town) Di An Putnam wins for her  Chicken Cheese stuffed jalapeno poppers!   Yay!!
Our 2012 Totally Lit Miss AppeTEASEr!





 
The runner up--Ms Kay with her blue cheese bacon wrapped stuff dates.
 
 
 
 
Previous winners---Cindy, Misss Congealediality, Jean, Miss Hot Dish, and Di An, Miss AppeTEASEr.
 
 
 
It was a fun night.  I love book club.  (I have another one next week...THE LIT WITS!  I can't wait) 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Black Magic Cake



These pictures might not be the best, but this cake is.
I made it on a whim, because it kept popping up on the side of my Facebook page  (I 'liked'  Just a Pinch Recipe Club, and this recipe  is from them).   I guess it just called out to me---MAKE ME!  COME ON, YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.  HURRY UP AND MAKE ME!


So, I did.  And it was ---heavenly.   
It had a few things going for it...

1.  It was easy
2.  It was quick
3.  It was really, really good




When I made it, the batter was really, really thin.  It kind of scared me, it was so thin.  (the directions said it would be thin, but still...)
Then, also, it didn't poof up in the middle  (I made a 9x13 cake) like my other cakes do.  It was flat.  And very heavy.
I had made this cake  (which I had never made before) to take to someone's house for a potluck.   I was a little nervous about how it looked, but I am very brave, so I just frosted it and off we went to the party.  
When we arrived,  I set it away from the rest of the food...in the laundry room.  I wanted to cut into it first--just to see if it was okay.
Well, someone got a hold of it and before I knew it, it was cut, on plates and half gone.   There was nothing wrong with it AT ALL.   It was very, very good.

The Handyman and I got home at midnight and shared a piece before going to bed.  We never do that.  It was just too good to stop eating.
It was so moist.  I love a good heavy moist cake.
There used to be commercials for a boxed cake mix--I can't remember if it was Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker or  Pillsbury, but their claim to fame was  that their cakes were NEVER heavy.  I think these commercials were over 20 years ago, maybe even more,  and they touted  "light and fluffy cakes, never heavy."  
I really could never understand that.   Those boxed cake mixes  taste so different...not bad, just different.  The texture is just so different from homemade, no matter what they do, they cannot get that good 'heaviness'.  So, I guess they went the other way and said, heavy is not good?

I mentioned that I had made the cake from scratch and a friend asked,  "where do you buy scratch?".   She was joking, of course, but, do most people make boxed cake mixes now?    Will that be the taste our children remember fondly? 
I say,  make this cake and they won't want another boxed cake mix ever again.





Here is a link to the original recipe.


Black Magic Cake  (Best Chocolate Cake Ever!)

Ingredients

- 1 3/4 c all purpose flour
- 2 c sugar
- 3/4 c cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 c strong black coffee, cooled
- 1 c buttermilk - 1/2 c vegetable oil
- 1 tsp real vanilla extract


CHOCOLATE FROSTING
- 1/2 c margarine, softened
- 2 oz melted unsweetened chocolate, cooled
- 3 c powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp milk
- 2 tsp real vanilla extract

Directions
1. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer.
2. Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.
3. Beat at medium speed for two minutes. Batter will be thin.
4. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9x13 pan or two 9 inch cake pans.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes for a 9x13, or 30-35 minutes for layer pans.
6. Combine frosting ingredients and mix with a hand or stand mixer. Spread frosting on cooled cakes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Outdoor Wednesday


Today I am linking up with  Outdoor  Wednesday, hosted by a   Southern Daydreamer.
Outdoor Wednesday photos  can be something outside of your home such as your porch, deck, patio, garden or lawn. Your photo can be outdoor shots of the beach, forest or mountains. (We don’t want to exclude anyone who might not have a yard). Or, you could simply post pictures of a favorite plant or flower. Only rule is it has to be outside!


When I was growing up, my parents were huge on picnics and hanging out by lakes, rivers, lagoons on summer days off.
These were the days of no sunscreen, but rather,  baby oil tinted with iodine and also cocoa butter.   Suntan lotion, NOT sunscreen.  
Ahhhhh, those were the days. 
Not really, of course, as now everyone is paying the price, but let's  just forget that for a moment.   Cocoa Butter smelled SO GOOD! 
One summer, my parents had a contest between the two of them, to see who could get the darkest tan.  I can remember my mom taking the ironing onto the back patio and ironing in her bathing suit.
It was the 60's.   (as if that explains it all)

My dad worked shift work, so in the afternoons,  we would load up the station wagon with towels, blankets, sand buckets, snacks and.....cocoa butter and head down to the  Lagoon.
We lived on the Columbia River and in Columbia Park, there was an  inlet of water called  "the Lagoon".   I have to laugh at that name, it wasn't distinguised from any other lagoon.  There was a beach  (all sand) and picnic tables above the beach, a snack bar where we would buy frozen Milkshake candy bars on a stick.  Darn those were good!


I have very fond memories of summer afternoons at the Lagoon.   We swam the afternoon away and lay in the hot sun getting our tans. 
Even when I was in high school, we would go to the Lagoon to hang out. To look at the lifeguard sitting in his chair in the middle of the water, to show off our new swimsuits, to flirt with the boys, try to swim out to the dock in the middle.

I moved away from home over 30 years ago--and I knew that  the Lagoon had changed, but last year when I finally had the leisure  (when I was visiting)  to spend some time at Columbia park, I was really shocked to find that the Lagoon, had been changed to a fishing hole.  Everything was different!
It's very  pretty, but it made me sad.   I know there are reasons for the change--I don't know what they are--but it still makes me sad.   The Lagoon of my youth is now a fishing hole.

There is a nice walking path around it tho...



The old Snack Bar, where we bought the frozen Milkshake candy bars.   They still have restrooms there and you can see a little train in the back there---it drives children around the  "Playground of  Dreams", which I don't have pictures of, but it also wasn't there when I was a kid.   (to be honest, even tho I'm sad to see the Lagoon as I knew it, gone,  the Playground of Dreams is  so, so amazing!   Just goes to show, even tho change is difficult, it's sometimes good.

All that grass used to be a sandy beach.  All of it.