Tuesday, September 18, 2018


The beginning of school was long my new year beginning, not January.  When I was not in school, I still always liked the beginning of fall and feeling rejuvenated by the change in temperatures.  We're back to the new year being in September, with kids in the house.  And this year has seen many changes.

First, neither Bud nor I am taking piano anymore; he, because he lost interest, and me, because I couldn't justify the expense anymore.

Sis has also dropped speedskating.  Her foot is still a bit tender from when a 1000 lb horse stepped on it!  And I think she realized that she didn't like competing, which was the main point.

Mama has started playing the ukelele, a present from me on our 21st anniversary.  She's been strumming along to "I Lava You" from the Pixar short.  It's sweet--and she's gotten good fast.  She's dabbled at playing piano, guitar, and violin over the years, but this one has stuck.

And . . . and I've saved the biggest for last:  we bought a horse!  It's a convoluted story.  There was conflict and disruption at the barn, as the current owner was trying to retire and sell the place and it fell through with much acrimony.  As part of the proceedings, the prospective buyer bought several horses, including Sis's favorite horse, Patience.  And then, as the deal fell through, the new owner of the horses was going to take away Patience.  With all the chaos, and with the sadness of Murphy's departure so fresh, we bought the horse.  We worried that it sends the wrong message--that you can buy your way out of pain.  But we think it will be outweighed by all the hard work, discipline, sacrifice, persistence, etc.  Hopefully. 

We are boarding the horse--Patience, an 8-year-old chestnut mare (Quarterhorse, apparently), who is so named because she stands very still and patient in the aisle while being groomed and bridled--at the farm where Sis has been riding these last years.  They will care for the horse Monday through Saturday, with three meals a day, one blanket change, turn out, stall cleaning.  And on Sundays, we will do most of that.  But horses have to be ridden, so Sis will be there several days a week to ride her.  One of Sis's friends at the barn will be leasing her (and paying us) and so will ride her as well; she comes from a horsey family and will also help us.  Because Mama and I know nothing.  Sis knows a lot, but owning is different than leasing and it's a large learning curve.  We all went to visit Patience on Sunday and there was some concern that she might be a tad constipated--which can be very fatal in horses, quickly--but soon enough she wasn't.  I've never been so happy to see a pile of poo in my life!! 

Otherwise, Sis taught us all how to brush her--with three different brushes (curry brush, hard brush, and finishing brush)--and then took her for a walk.  Sis also washed her, tended her hooves, and picked the stall.  She's a very gentle, beautiful horse.  The farm owner said it would be the easiest horse purchase we'd ever make!  (Oh, goodness--the implications in that sentence!!)  Bud was a little apprehensive--horses are huge, even if Patience is barely a horse side-wise just a bit of a hand over a pony--but he'll settle in.  And Mama loves Patience.  She was talking to her and has been researching horses.  She'll even ride.  I'm not sure I will, but I like being around Patience nonetheless.

So that was this week's up-side.  The down-side was that I went to the ER on Monday night with severe abdominal pain yet again.  This time they didn't expect GI issues, but gynecological.  Perhaps a cyst or endometriosis.  It hurt like hell--almost like a partial obstruction--but no evidence of such; the ultrasounds didn't turn up anything.  I have a colonoscopy this week.  I think it's scar tissue from the four abdominal surgeries I've had; I can feel the baseball-sized tissue behind my belly button, but it isn't anything but scarring they've all told me (which if we remove would just, Catch-22, make more, apparently.)  We'll see.  I feel much better now, relieved it wasn't anything else.  But I would like more answers. 

All in all, it's a new beginning all around here.  I love fall.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Change of Season

It's in the low 70s and muggy, but I know that fall is on its way, replacing the gross, humid, and hot weather we've had for weeks now.  I think there will still be some warm days, but nothing like the 103F heat index we've been having--and the three early dismissal days we had to go with them.  The harder part was that our AC gave up in the middle of it, making for some uncomfortable time but Mama climbed up in the attic and fixed it enough to get us through.

Then last night there was a storm that ended the heat.  My paternal grandfather used to say, for Texas, that the first general rain after August 15 broke the back of summer.  I'm not sure if it's that early anymore, but we had a huge general rain here that dropped the temperatures more than 15 degrees in a matter of minutes.  Bud and I marveled at the noise; Sis was at the farm, safe and helping to comfort the horses.  Mama was commuting home.  It was almost deafening!  We watched both the lightning and Lightning Tracker, which showed bolts hitting almost on top of us, behind the houses in the cul-de-sac and throughout town.

It's cooler today, low 70s, and humid, but delightful after the last few weeks.  I've even broken out my yarn and am starting a new blanket, using a waffle stitch, which is new to me.  It's a raffle prize for a fun run in memory of a teacher from Newtown. 

Waffle Stitch Blanket (using American crochet terms)
I Hook
Worsted yarn

dc: double crochet
fpdc: front post double crochet (yo, insert front to back around whole stitch, pull through, yo, pull through 2 on hook, yo, pull through rest on hook)

Chain 137 (or any multiple of 3+2)
ROW 1: dc in 3rd chain from hook and all the way across. Ch 1 and turn.
ROW 2: dc in first stitch. *fpdc, dcI in next 2 st * until last stitch.  Work FPDC in last stitch and dc in ch.  Ch 1 and turn. 

ROW 3: dc in first stich.  *dc, fpdc in next 2 st* repeat to last two stitches. Work dc in last two stitches.  Ch 1 and turn. 

Repeat ROWS 2 and 3 until blanket is desired length. Be sure to end on a row 2 for a neat edge.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Summer is Over

Well, summer is over, at least because school has started, but the heat still feels like dog days.  We're in the 90s this week, with high humidity, and it's nasty.  In fact, the first day of school was cut short because too many of the un-air-conditioned schools were too hot for students.  The same could be said of today and Wednesday, but they aren't being released early, yet.

It was a full summer--Gommie's visit and our foray to Vermont, camps for each kid, regular activities lengthened (Bud helped out teaching kung fu to the younger kids; Sis went to the bard on Saturdays to help with ponies), then our big week in Maine.

And then there was the "little" matter of re-doing the hardwood floors upstairs, which entailed moving all the belongings, stripping out the carpet, days of sanding and finishing, and then painting the rooms and moving back in.  It took about 10 days in all.  The kids have new teen rooms--Sis got rid of her bunk beds and went with teal colored walls; Bud got a new bed and changed out his bookcases and dresser--his walls are greenish.  Mama and I have grey-lavender walls, everything else the same (though we'd love to have new dressers.)  Through it all, we stayed at a nearby suites, with the cats away at kitty camp.

There was also, of course, our new cat, Romeo.  And that's a whole story in itself.  I had seen a neighbor's post about a stray orange tabby while I was checking FB from the hospital in NJ over Memorial Day, but ignored it and the few that followed it.  She was looking for its owner and, when that failed, a place to send him, because she couldn't keep him. A few weeks later, on a Friday night, I got a text from friends who were at the neighbor's house for a meeting--did I know about this cute orange cat?  So friendly, sadly homeless.  And next morning, I showed Mama the photo.

And now we have a new cat!  Within an hour, we had called our vet for a lodging appointment and check up and gone up to the neighbor's house to get the cat.  He rose from the wicker chair on the porch and came straight to me, letting me pick him up--and he was PURRING!  He got right in the carrier and the vet would check him over and keep him while we readied the basement for fostering.  Yeah, at first we were just going to foster, but very soon we knew we would keep him.  He's the chill-est, friendliest, longest lap cat I have ever met.  We kept him in the basement for weeks, taking turns visiting, and he's only just now been spending his days and his nights upstairs.  He's uncomfortable when the other cats get too close, but they're beginning to work it all out--dividing the rooms and floors into time shares!  Albus and Hermione are usually up on our bed, Eris up in one of the kids rooms.  Ro is down here with us.  Usually over a shoulder.  We noticed earlier this weekend that his eye was inflamed--not injured or infected (yet)--so he went to the vet and had a collar for a few days not to scratch.  Seems ok now.

As for my list, we didn't get much done; we were more laid-back than that.  Also, the

  • finish my Raptor Identification online class--I started it and will finish this fall
  • practice painting mandala rocks--yeah, still working on this
  • start embroidery project--nope
  • organize photo book for first half of the year--not yet
  • finish several crocheted blankets for hospice--too hot to crochet
  • read down my nightstand pile--read a few Kindle books
  • Practice "Viva La Vida" and "Amazing Grace" on piano--yes!
  • computer camp for both--yes
  • GS camp for Sis--she loved being a LEAD and wants to be a CIT
  • horse camp for Sis--she loves it, anything with horses
  • Parkour classes for Bud--he loved it and Sis joined it and loved it too
  • Birthdays!--Sis had a slumber party and let Bud hang out for most of it
  • teach Bud how to do laundry--yeah, but he doesn't love it.
  • Audubon family camp--Amazing!! Especially with Goo
  • celebrate 4th of July
  • Gommie's visit--wonderful time, especially taking her to Vermont
  • GS overnight for family in Boston--a hot trip but delightful--did I write this up?
  • get new upstairs floor--yes, and it's cut down on the dust considerably!
  • foster new cat, Romeo--love him!
  • volunteer at cat shelter--not time
  • backyard cookout--too hot
  • practice dinner skills--add one meal each to repertoire--Sis learned shepherd's pie, Bud learned lomo saltado
  • add one chore each--they've added vaccuuming and household garbage collection
  • weed the garden--I did a tiny bit of yard clean up the first morning it was in the 60s.
  • go swimming--everyday at the hotel where we stayed
  • go to the beach--nope
  • movies!!  Ant-Man and the Wasp, Pooh, Jurassic Park etc--we saw Ant-Man
  • make ice cream--no, but we got a lot of it from the local shop
  • putt-putt golf--no
  • go-kart racing--no

Summer Recipes:
(to be completed) 

Flan, or Quesillo a la Ana (Venezuelan)

3/4 cups sugar (Ana's note: 3 big spoons and a little water)
6 -7 eggs (Ana's note:  6)
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk (Ana's note: 1/2 a can!)
12 ounces low-fat milk (Ana's note:  only enough to fill the sweetened condensed milk can)
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Over med. heat melt sugar in a cake pan or in a pot. You can add a tiny bit of water (1 Tablespoon or so) before sugar heats up to make it a little lighter.
  2. After sugar is melted it should be light brown. Don't let it get dark or burn. Take off the heat and if it's in the cake pan let it cool. If it's in a saucepan, pour it into the cake pan and let cover the bottom of the pan and harden a bit.
  3. Put the rest of the ingredients into a blender and blend for a few minutes. Then pour on top of the caramel mixture in the pan. Place the cake pan into a larger casserole or round glass dish and fill the larger pan with water until the water comes up to about halfway on outside of the cake pan. This is called a bain-marie or bano de maria in spanish. Place this into the oven and bake for about an hour or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  4. Place cake pan in refrigerator to cool for about 5 hours to overnight. If you're in a huge hurry you can also leave it in the bain-marie but dump the water and refill with cool water then add some ice cubes to this and place in refrigerator. If the ice cubes melt, add some more, removing a bit of water if necessary so as not to cause overflow. This could be ready in an hour or two if the ice is replenished often.
  5. Alternatively I'll sometimes do this in two loaf pans and place both into a large casserole dish. In that case, sprinkle enough sugar to coat the bottom of each pan lightly.
(Ana's note:  Broil the sugar in the pan until it is caramel-colored and then swirl it around carefully.  You can make this on the stove as long as you cover the flan so the water doesn't get in, for example in a steamer.)

Lomo Saltado from NYTimes
2 pounds beef loin, sliced into thin strips
3 yellow peppers, sliced into thin strips
3 red onions, peeled and cut into eighths
canned peeled tomatoes, too taste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

In a large skillet over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the beef, and quickly saute until the beef is seared and browned on all sides. Remove the pan from the heat, and use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to a plate.

Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until the edges are seared and they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and stir to combine. Sprinkle the soy sauce and balsamic vinegar over the mixture, and saute until the tomatoes have softened, about 2 minutes.

Add the beef and sauteed potatoes, and toss gently to mix well. Cover and simmer just until reheated, 2-3 minutes. Serve with rice and french fries (we used frozen.)

Shepherd's Pie

Atlantic Beach Pie from the NYTimes

I made this on the hot Friday of Labor Day.  We devoured it. So good.
1 ½ sleeves saltine (with salt) crackers (about 60 crackers/200 grams)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup/113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
egg yolks
1 (14-ounce/396-gram) can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup/120 milliliters lemon or lime juice, or a mix of the two
 Pinch of kosher salt
 Fresh whipped cream, lemon or lime zest and flaky sea salt, for garnish (optional)


Make the crust by combining softened butter with broken up crackers in food processor; process only until crumbly, NOT dusty.  Press into pie plate.  Freeze pie shell for about 15 minutes. Bake at 350F until slightly brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs into sweetened condensed milk.  Then add lime (or lemon) juice and salt.  Save zest for whipped cream.

Pour into pie shell (need not be cool.)  Bake for 14-16 minutes until set.  Cool in fridge for at least 4 hours.  Top with whipped cream (I slightly sweetened it and added zest.)



Sis learned this at GS camp.
Cream soda
Caramel syrup (in a bottle, like Hershey's)
vanilla ice cream

Combine in pleasing amounts.  Serve immediately.

Boston Cooler

I saw this in a FB post.
vanilla ice cream

Combine like a float.  So good!

KAF Gingersnaps

Frosted Lemon Sheet Cake

1 cup/227 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened, plus more for preparing the pan
3 cups/385 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for preparing the pan
1 ⅓ cups whole milk
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups/403 grams granulated sugar
4 teaspoons packed finely grated lemon zest
4 large eggs, at room temperature

¾ cup/170 grams unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
2 cups/246 grams confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
 Pinch kosher salt
4 to 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Make the cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, butter and flour the paper.

In a measuring cup with a spout, combine the milk and lemon juice. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 30 seconds after each. Scrape down bottom and sides of the mixer to ensure the mixture is well combined.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk mixture to the bowl in three additions. Mix until just combined, then use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any large air pockets. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until puffed and golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake completely on a rack before frosting.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: Combine the butter, confectioners' sugar, lemon zest and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low until combined, then turn the mixer up to medium-high and stream in 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Whip the frosting until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, adding additional lemon juice as necessary until frosting is smooth and spreadable.

Spread the frosting over the cooled cake and serve. Store leftover cake at room temperature, covered for up to 2 days.

Cinnamon Pancakes a la Chip's Restaurant

Oh, how Sis and I love these sweet pancakes with a caramelized cinnamon spiral!
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Combine and spiral through pancake (use zipper bag with snipped corner) in skillet before flipping it.  We only do one side.

4 tablespoons butter
2 oz. cream cheese
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter and soften cream cheese, then combine with sugar and vanilla.  Drizzle over finished pancakes.

From Life in the Lofthouse

Chocolate Cream Pie from Crazy for Crust
My first cream pie, with pudding from scratch.  I used a scant 1/4 flour instead.  I even liked that the chocolate chips didn't totally melt. 

1 prepared No Roll Chocolate Pie Crust
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk whole, 2%, or nonfat
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips milk or semi-sweet
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Mini Chocolate Chips for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400°F. Press pie crust into a 9” pie plate as directed. Chill for 10 minutes in the freezer or 30 minutes in the refrigerator, then poke it several times all over the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until slightly puffed and no longer glossy. Cool completely before filling.
Whisk sugar, salt, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and milk in a medium saucepan, then switch to a wooden spoon or heat-safe spatula. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly, about 5-8 minutes. Be sure to get in the corners of the pan when you're stirring as the solids can get stuck there. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and chocolate chips; stir until chocolate is completely melted. Pour into prepared crust. Cool at room temperature, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill 4 hours or overnight.
Before serving, make the whipped cream. Beat cold heavy whipping cream in a cold bowl with cold beaters until stiff peaks form, adding powdered sugar slowly during the mixing. Spread on the pie and garnish with mini chocolate chips, if desired.

Chocolate Pie Crust (I used regular pie crust)
1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ice water

Dice butter into small cubes. Place back in the refrigerator.
Place flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
Add the cold diced butter into the food processor. Pulse a few times until the butter is worked into the flour mixture.
Add 1 tablespoon of ice water. Let the food processor run for several seconds, until the dough becomes crumbly. If the dough seems too dry, add 1/2 teaspoon water and pulse a few more times. You can add another 1/2 teaspoon of water as needed. Just make sure it’s not too wet! The dough should be pinchable, but not dry or wet.
Pour crumbly dough into a 9” pie plate. Use your fingers to presss across the bottom and up the sides. Chill for at least one hour (or freeze for 10-15 minutes) before baking.
If making a baked pie shell for an unbaked filling: poke the very cold crust with the tines of a fork all over the bottom and sides. Bake at 400°F for about 8-10 minutes. Cool, then fill as directed.

If making a baked pie, fill chilled pie crust as directed and bake as the recipe directs.

Simple Chicken
An old slow cooker recipe of mine, updated.

1 package chicken breasts
1 package boneless, skinless thighs
1 cup Italian salad dressing (I used Paul Newman's)
1/2 head of cabbage, sliced
2 handfuls baby carrots

Place all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on LOW for 8 hours.

Chicken Stew
Take leftovers from Simple Chicken above, add potatoes, any other vegetables (I had corn but no onions or celery), and 2+ cups chicken stock.  Season to taste and simmer until done.

Mommy Hungry

Broiled Fish Fillets
6 cod/ling fish fillets, defrosted
pat of butter per fillet
optional sauce: teriyaki, garlic, ginger, scallions, and 1-2 teaspoons sugar heated through and reduced in pot on stove

Place fillets on foil-lined baking sheet.  Season liberally and place a pat of butter on each fillet.  Broil about 3-4" from element for 10-12 minutes, or until flaky.

Mama Hungry

Broiled Chicken
chicken pieces, marinated (I use soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and garlic to marinate and then I add chicken stock to leftovers and reduce it on the stove)

Mommy Hungry
Place marinated chicken pieces on oven-proof rack over baking sheet.  Broil about 3-4" from element for 10 minutes each side until it reaches 165F.

King's Hawaiian Sliders

deli ham
swiss cheese
12 King's rolls (I could only find hamburger buns)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (we skipped this part)
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I used the Swedish beer mustard)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup mayonnaise

Cut rolls in half and spread mayo onto 1 side of the rolls. Place a slice or two of ham and slice of swiss cheese in roll. Replace the top of the rolls and bunch them closely together into a baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together poppy seeds, dijon mustard, melted butter, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce.
Pour sauce over the rolls, just covering the tops. Cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook for additional 2 minutes until tops are slightly browned and crisp. Serve warm.