Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Annual Report

Well, that title brings back memories of the old insurance company days.  I spent 15 years in one of the best work environments. Not many people can say that. We're having a reunion next summer. 

On the 2014 balance sheet of life, there were debits, but the credits outweighed.  

My father passed away and my mother-in-law had a stroke.

But my lovely M-I-L is improving slowly. Her most recent milestone is being able to wear her glasses and read a real book!  

Seeing my dad's house with many unfinished projects spurred me to get a few more things finished around our own home. 

Handy and I crossed off a few things on our bucket lists: The ROAD TRIP, which I left hanging on the blog, so maybe I'll recap that in 2015. He got himself a guitar and I started taking piano lessons.  I am just about to order Rosetta Stone for Italian. 

Frank has a job.

Ernest has college. 

Homer has a second chance in life. 

Definitely a credit balance for the year. 

Happy New Year! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

We're Going to Have to Get Out Some More Tools*

Handy has two weeks off but he hasn't been bored since he lucked (or perhaps unlucked is more accurate) into a major project.

Ernest told us he couldn't turn on the upstairs shower. Well, it hasn't been used since he left. In the process of fixing that, Handy decided to do something about the eternally slow drain. Unfortunately, it ended up even slower. Or actually completely plugged. They couldn't even get a snake through it. So the next step was to take off the trap. 

Hi, Ernest!

That giant hole in the wall/floor/ceiling was already there behind the dry wall. This house has scary construction. Anyone who's watched This Old House knows you shouldn't saw through beams like that. 

The pipe couldn't be unstuck or unscrewed so, no surprise, Handy sawed through it with the sawzall. Then out came a grinder and a shop vac. I may have missed a few more tools as they appeared from the garage. (*The post title is a direct quote from Handy.)

Since this was all happening on Christmas Day, the reassembly has to wait until today. 

Here's Ernest from the other side. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Tree

I asked Ernest to wrap some lights around a tomato cage for me, in preparation for one of my alternate trees.  He picked the longest strand of lights and wrapped in a pattern. I liked the minimalist look, so I left it that way.

This is what it looks like without my glasses.

A smallish traditional tree, although the ornaments are non-traditional.

And finally, Pink and Sparkly makes a repeat appearance. Ernest did not believe we could fit all the ornaments. This time I was the one with the engineering plan.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Eve

Gary said it, "You must be so happy to have the young genius back home for a bit :)". Yep, that's it in a nutshell. That's all I wanted.  I'm actually seeing more of him than I thought, as 2 out of 3 climbing trips seem to have fallen through. The first week he spent a lot of time at Hogwarts, as his friends were still there. This week he seems content to hang out with us, helping around the house and sharing the xBox with his brother. I think a trip is on between Christmas and New Year's. 

We're doing our celebrating tonight, since tomorrow we have a luncheon to attend. 

I'd better get cracking in the kitchen. There is pie to be made. 

(Yes, I know this looks like a Thanksgiving picture but we're having the same menu so it works for me.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes

Ernest came home from the east coast craving salsa and good avocados.

Little by little we are discovering there were a few other things he missed. He made a special request for ricotta pancakes last weekend. They are my favorite, he enthused. I won't even eat ordinary pancakes any more. Ernest made an emergency trip to the store before breakfast to buy ricotta, since I didn't have any on hand, that's how much he likes them. I usually make them with ricotta left over from lasagne or calzones.

I don't know where I got the recipe, or I would give them credit. The original was a little skimpy for 4 voracious people so I increased the proportions.

Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes

1 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
4 eggs, separated
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

If the ricotta is really watery, you can strain it, but I usually don't bother.

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

Mix ricotta, milk, egg yolks and vanilla in a smaller bowl.

Beat egg whites until stiff.

Stir wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, then fold in egg whites.

OK, here's where I don't have instructions because I am not the pancake cooker in the house, only the mixer. Someone else usually does the griddle work. Cook them like you would any other pancakes, I guess!


Now I have ricotta leftover from the pancakes! What else can I make? This Baked Ricotta spread looks good!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Super Deluxe

After a long wait, Tino's Italian Grocery has reopened in a new location. So I made a reason to go to to the big town the other week. Supposedly it was to pay the deposit for new windows, but between us it really was all about the subs. 

Handy knows more of the Italian Grocery's history than I do. A family-run Italian deli in a small house, it was bought out by the county and moved into a housing development. There, a wall outside was testament to the deliciousness: oil and vinegar stains on the sidewalk where people sat to eat. 

I didn't get there often enough to recognize the rest of the family but Tino was always there. After he passed, there was a division. Someone got the location, but the children got the name, the Facebook page, and the original sandwich signs. 

Handy's lunch date fell through and he texted me, offering to meet me there. But I was already in line! So I delivered a Super Deluxe (with everything) to him.

I took mine home and you can see that Homer was very interested. But I was very hungry so I did not share. He had gobbled his meager kibble allotment right before I sat down to eat, so I wasn't too sorry for him. 

Homer thought he might have better luck when Frank was feasting. 

Nope. Only the oil and vinegar dressing left on the paper. 

We have another trip to town today, for Homer's vet appointment, so he's going to have to suffer in the crate a little longer so we can pick up another round of Super Deluxes. I guess I'll have to give him a nibble this time.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

No Need for Concern

I'll admit, I was a bit worried about Tiny's reaction to Christmas trees. She is such a curious cat, always poking her tiny nose into strange new places.

But she seems to be ignoring the trees (I'm up to 3 now, photos coming soon.)

She did helpfully hold down the Christmas tablecloths.

You mae have seen Homer's photobomb on facebook.

 Sigh, she says.

(Photos by Frank.)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In Which I Test a Household Hint

Can putting a wooden spoon across a pot prevent it from boiling over? 

The foam clearly tries to creep over the spoon first. 

But wait!  The spoon is eventually overwhelmed and there it goes. 

End result: It slowed the process, but still boiled over in the end. If you're going to use the spoon for stirring anyway, and it won't get burnt up, go ahead. 

You're welcome. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tree and Cake

Without the Holiday Homes tour to prod me into decorating, I have nothing done.  I have removed the so-called easter decorations (Alice and Humpty Dumpty tchotchkes) but that's not much is it? I adore my Christmas decorations but it is a real pain to get them all out.

I don't have a wreath because the boy scout didn't come around this year. The boy scout's mother is selling succulent wreaths on Facebook and, while beautiful, they look too heavy to hang and are very expensive. I may cobble something together from vines in the yard. They are no longer dusty since we've had a couple decent rain storms.

Well, Ernest is back! So I roped him into helping get a tree.  It's amazing what you can fit into his little car. He is so happy to have the chance to drive a car again! 

This is where the tree is right now. 

Handy's birthday is tomorrow, so I need to hunt down a recipe. He decided on Boston Cream Pie, not because Ernest was coming from Boston, but because he remembered getting slices of it as a child. Since Frank (the baking one) is working and Ernest is gallivanting around in his car, it will probably be up to me to make the cake.

Tree and cake are my two goals for the next two days.

I am a little concerned about how Tiny will react to the tree. She is such a curious cat.

Monday, December 08, 2014

A New Cat Trick

Hmmm. This looks good.

I think I'll have some.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Law of Conservation of Energy

Ernest must be majoring in cat physics. I'm glad he can explain these things to me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


When Homer and Francine first arrived at our home, we didn't have any cat food dishes. So we fed them on our saucers. That seemed to work out fine, but I didn't want to accidentally break one of them. I invested in a stack from a thrift store. Of course several of them have broken by now, so it was time to replenish the stack.

One of them was made for Francine!

Tiny came with her own dishes and still uses them. We have served her once or twice on a saucer but she tended to nose the food right off the plate so it was back to the bowl for her.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Peanuts Pillowcases

I was so happy with Tiny's enjoyment of my sewing that I started on another project, using my vintage 1970s patches. The LOVE patch has never been used but the Peanuts patches have a long story. You know me. There's always a story behind my stuff. 

In the early '70s Weber's bread had a giveaway of applique patches of Snoopy, the Prince of Sandwiches, and his friends. I can't even remember how many bread wrappers I had to save to send in to get the patches. It was a big battle with my mother because she always bought the cheapest brand of pasty white bread so I had to beg for Webers which she thought was too expensive. 29 cents! I really don't know how I won this battle but I did.

So I sent away the wrappers and after the 4-6 weeks of waiting time, the patches were mine. And they covered every hole on my jeans throughout my teens. If I outgrew the jeans, I would carefully snip them off and save them for the next pair. 

At a point in my 20s I decided I didn't need patches on my jeans anymore.  But having worked so long to earn them, they were like merit badges. I couldn't give them up. So they sat in a box. 

Around 5 years ago, I bought a piece of Peanuts flannel, thinking I would make a pillow.    

I had enough fabric to make two pillowcases. 

Thank you Tiny for ALL the help!  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thinking Small

We're planning a Small Thanksgiving. A tiny turkey. A smidgen of stuffing. A modest portion of mashed potatoes with gobs of gravy, a satisfying salad and a petite pumpkin pie. It will still be delicious.

I followed this link thinking I would get some useful tips for cooking a smaller dinner, but it was  
not informational at all: 1) you don't have to cook a whole turkey.  2) Make a plan for your leftovers.  3) Cut down on the number of sides.  4) Keep things simple. 5) Consider pre-made foods. Not in my kitchen. 6) Celebrate with brunch or breakfast instead. I am really tired of these tacky hacky articles that don't tell you anything useful.

If I were writing tips for my sons, I'd tell them 1) go ahead and cook a whole turkey. A 10-pound turkey isn't that big. 2) Leftovers are for eating! And turkey enchiladas. 3) You don't like sweet potatoes anyway so don't worry. 4) I don't see them fretting about centerpieces and table settings, so we've got that one covered. 5) They really don't like pre-made mashed potatoes and they know how to make their own. Cranberry sauce and stuffing? Use the recipes on the packages. 6) But...they can have brunch or breakfast any time they want. Thanksgiving dinner comes once.

I've never brined a turkey...I don't have anything big enough to put it in. But look what I saw in the market! I didn't buy it because it was too big. I got a nice little fresh turkey, so I don't have to worry about thawing it. I'm all set.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday PhotoHunt - Feather

We saw a lot of ravens at the Petrified Forest.

Join the hunt!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Annual Debate

It's that time of year again. The decision about Handy's company party. He hates parties, but I'm always interested in the prospect of free food I don't have to cook.  The past couple years they've been doing things a bit differently (no more Xmas party shrimp). Last year's was at a snazzy hotel with a rooftop bar and he grudgingly admits he had a good time. This year is a sit down (not buffet) 3 course dinner at a wine themed restaurant. 

So we were talking to Ernest last night (yay) and mentioned this (he has heard me rave about the shrimp) and perhaps also mentioned that if he was coming home that day Handy would be delighted to get out of going to the party. 

And wouldn't you know it, that dear sweet boy came through for his daddy and made a flight reservation for that very day. 

Some people owe me a dinner. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tiny and the Pillowcase

Tiny likes the feather pillow I put on top of the bass case. Last weekend I took away the bass case and she still liked the feather pillow! So I decided she needed a pretty pillowcase like the ones my M-I-L has made.

She really liked "helping" in the sewing room. It's clear she remembers spending time in the sewing room in her prior home. She was purring and walking all around the sewing machine table. Jumping on the ironing board worried me. I try to keep the iron on the dresser so she can't get near it.

I was a little worried I might have spoiled the pillow for her by changing it but it worked out ok!  It's a comfy cat bed.

Here's a tutorial on the pillowcase, if you're interested.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What is it Wednesday

It's a blog meme. And a thing I found at my father's house.

But it looks like an angry alien.

Or a resigned squid.

Actually it is a Bob Lane Collapsible Cup. 
With the help of the smart phone I identified it and made it work. 
So I kept it.

It holds liquid without leaking. It's a keeper.

Why I think I'll have a need for a collapsible cup, I don't know...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pies and Cakes

From that title, you'd think we were having a lot of sweets around here. Actually, no. Dessert is a rarity, not a regular course.

The pie was Chicken Pot Pie. I don't have a recipe. I confess I used Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup in this one. Plus leftover chicken and frozen mixed veg. Add some herbs and no one knows. Shh, don't tell.

But the crust was from scratch because I would hear about it from Frank if I cheated on that! Pie crust is cheap to make and so easy in the food processor! That is Frank's blue pie pan under all that pie.

The cake was Cheesecake, made for my father-in-law's 88th birthday. I gave him a choice, of which cheesecake was one of 3 options. The other two were pies, but when the time came to make it I went with the familiar. No one complained about this either.

Soon it will be time for Thanksgiving pies! We are having a very small dinner, so probably only one pie. I think pumpkin will win.  No recipe secrets there -- use the recipe on the back of the can!

Although I have made some pretty scrumptious pumpkin cheesecakes. So who knows?

I always have canned pumpkin in the cupboard now, because it was recommended for Homer's issues and the other cats decided they liked it too. So now they all get a spoonful of pumpkin in their dinner. Homer would probably eat a bit of pumpkin pie if it was offered. He's not shy about asking for cheesecake, since he is fan of cream cheese.

What's on your pie or cake menu for the holiday?

Friday, November 14, 2014



The treats are mine, I tell you. All mine!

Friday, November 07, 2014

Saturday PhotoHunt: Hero

Here are my heros in their Halloween costumes.

Frank shaved his beard to be Braveheart 
while it looks like Ernest spent weeks growing his to be Shaggy. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


This is a new one...

It finally arrived.
Ernest's senior picture.
He's only been out of high school since June, 
so I think I did well to get it in the same calendar year.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


At least she's on the pillow now, which is on top of the bass case. 
And ready for a long nap after playing with the tape measure.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Tiny's Knack

While Homer and Francine sit in predictable places, like on the furniture, Tiny has a knack for finding unusual spaces for lounging. I'm going to ruin this garage space in a few days when the chair's cushions come back from the upholsterer. 

She's sitting on the glass in a picture frame in the box. I put a pillow in it, for protection and comfort, and then she never sat there again.

Frank's old bass case has been sitting in my sewing room for a while, needing some new hardware. It was on top of a precarious pile of stuff so of course she had to nest there a couple days ago. Once morning I heard a scuffle and a crash. In trying to summit Mt. Bass Case, she had tipped over the ironing board. I had left an open box of straight pins on it so they were all over the floor. Ouch! I only stabbed myself a few times picking them up. I dealt with the precarious pile. Then I thought I might as well fix the guitar case but she had claimed it again. 

She must hate me messing with her spaces.