Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Musings

Well, I'm finally back to my blog after a busy week of Christmas fun with my family, a cold that will not go away, reading books on my new Kindle (which I can hardly put down-I'm loving it so much) and strange weather for our part of the world.  We had snow flurries on Christmas Day, which is very, very unusual, and today we are basking in warmth. I think severe thunderstorms are heading our way tonight, also very unusual for this time of year in our part of the South.

We are spending a quiet evening at home tonight. I'm making pizza and we've got a Dr. Who DVD to watch with The Boy.  The Professor's older children and their families are coming over for a big New Year's Day breakfast tomorrow morning, and I've got to get ready for that.  I've got to get the Angel biscuits ready and get my breakfast casserole put together.  We'll have the traditional black-eyed peas and greens for dinner tomorrow night, with leftover Christmas ham and, of course, corn bread.

I'm mulling over goals and resolutions for the New Year.  I love coming up with goals, resolutions, lists of everything I want to get accomplished. However, I fail spectacularly at carrying them through to completion.  I haven't accomplished much in my life, and what I have accomplished I've been totally surprised about. For instance,  I can't believe that I actually finished college, I really have a hard time believing that I completed work for a master's degree.  Hmmm....

..... I'm mulling....

 It seems that I really can finish projects that somebody else has determined to be necessary, like fulfilling the requirements for those college degrees, but projects that I come up with myself, for my own personal (or my family's) benefit, always seem to fall by the wayside.  Somebody else sets the deadline - I'm on it, getting things done.  My own deadline - meh - I can take it or leave it.... I'm so bad about this that one year I deliberately started deep cleaning and painting my dining room a few weeks before Christmas because I knew that deadline would keep me motivated to actually finish the project.

So....knowing this about myself, I'm putting my goals for the upcoming new year on my blog.  Maybe the very fact of putting them out there for the world to see will help me focus on accomplishing at least one or two.  (Ok, I realize the entire world isn't looking at my blog - which is perfectly fine with me- but it is out there for the world to see, if the world cares to look.)  Anyway, I plan to have my list ready to post on Monday.

Anybody else mulling over new goals for 2011?


Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Baggage

This time last year I knew in my heart that my mother would not be here for this Christmas. At the beginning of October she  succumbed to the metastatic breast cancer that had surfaced two years ago and even though I knew it was coming and thought I was prepared for it, her death and the events surrounding it were very, very painful.  My mother was a beautiful woman, with a wonderful sense of humor, and as a child I adored her.  I know she loved my sister and me very much.  She wasn't perfect, though, and some of the choices that she made caused suffering for us all, herself included.  This past year has been difficult, not only because of her illness, but also other chaotic circumstances in her life.  

So, not only do I have gifts wrapped up under the tree, I also have some extra emotional baggage to deal with this Christmas time.  I'm praying a lot.  I'm not forcing myself to be "happy-happy-joy-joy."  On the other hand, I'm trying to keep myself from wallowing in the negative feelings. Keeping busy and the Jesus Prayer have been key in that regard. I'm not feeling compelled to provide "The Complete Christmas Experience" for everybody.   This year I simply want to have a spirit of peace in my own heart.

Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dog Daze

I took the dogs to the vet for their annual check-up today.  We are several months late - they were due to go back in August and September, but circumstances which I won't get into in this post caused the dogs' routine check up to fall by the wayside for several months.  It's always a  pain anyway because of our big dog, Lucky.

Lucky was a shelter puppy that we adopted when our son, The Boy, was 6 years old. At the time he wanted a dog that "looked just like Old Yeller."  It was my first mistake to go along with this idea, since I knew that I'd be the one doing most of the care of the dog. I should have picked a smaller dog - not a Lab mix. My second mistake was choosing a puppy with some evidence of fear issues. However, her fear issues did seem very minor at the time. These issues did not really surface until we had her about two years. She got along well with The Boy and the other children who played over here, and although she chewed everything in sight  and she shed 24/7/365, she was working out pretty well.  

Then, after we had her about 2 years and I took her to the vet for her check up she went NUTS at the vet's office.  She barked, bared her teeth, wouldn't let the vet or the assistant come near her.  I had to wrestle with her in the examining room to muzzle her just so the vet could get inside the door. None of us could believe it, because she had been to the vet before and had been fine. No more. Ever since then, going to the vet has been a major operation.  I have to get the muzzle on her before we leave the house, and of course, then she knows we are going to THE VET. Plus, today, for the first time, I carried the dogs to the vet in their crates which I placed in the back of our pick-up . Lucky doesn't care for her crate when she's in a good mood, much less when she knows she's about to be faced with THE VET.  I'm sure the neighbors enjoyed watching me wrangle that 50 pound lummox into her crate. 

Then she developed these strange behaviors that we hadn't seen in her before. For instance, she barks at anybody (even The Boy) wearing all black clothing. The Boy took a martial arts class for a while and the first time he wore his all-black uniform ( there's a special word for it but I can't remember it) Lucky had a fit. I have never known a dog to hate one color so much. In fact, I've never known a dog to have any reaction to colors at all.

 She is also deathly afraid of thunder and can hear a thunderstorm approaching long before we do. I know the trauma that caused her fear of thunder, but that is a blog post for another day.

The vet says she has never seen a Lab as nervous as ours and she thinks Lucky is a mix of half Lab/half some type of shepherd. If she is, she's the worst half of both.

After we had Lucky for about 3 years, we ended up acquiring our little dog, Bud. He's a charming Jack Russell who showed up on our doorstep with a big gash in his hip and a broken leg. We took care of him and he's been with us ever since.  All the people at the vet's office love seeing Bud - he's very sociable and sweet.  When I bring Lucky in, everybody just sighs...

Everybody loves Bud!
Bless her heart, she's got issues.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yes, I'm a Reader....

I'm getting into these Link Party thingies....This is from Leighann over at Living with Three Hobbits and a Giant. I think that's such a cute blog name.

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Instructions: Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read an excerpt.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iai
n Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

If I counted right, I've read 53 of the books on this list.  Now, I don't see how the BBC could really believe that most people have only read 6 of the books on this list. I read more than 6 of the books on this list in high school as assigned reading. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Windowsill

I'm jumping in to participate in this Linky Party over at Like Mother, Like Daughter.  This is a big first for me, and I'm a little nervous about it.  I'm hopeful that I'll improve as a photographer someday. Until then, please bear with the bad pictures.

Here's my kitchen window.

After I decided to participate and get my windowsill area tidied up for a picture, I realized that my windowsill needed a lot more than just tidying up.  The number one problem was the valance over it.  It was really in need of washing.  So, I took it down, but the window didn't look right. It was naked! What to do, what to do?  I scrummaged around in the cabinet where I keep my tablecloths and found my late mother-in-law's vintage tablecloth. She always called it an "Army, Navy" tablecloth. I folded the tablecloth over lengthwise a couple of times and draped it over the curtain rod.  I was in a hurry this morning, so I didn't try ironing the cloth. I just stuck it up there and tried to get it even enough for a good picture. Trust me, it looks better than nothing.

A few more things about my kitchen.  My husband is a professor at a small denominational college. The home we live in was built in 1945 and donated to the college as a home for the Bible professor.  The wife of the Bible professor in 1945 designed the home. I think it is based on a plan of a home she lived in as a girl.  She was a wonderful, lovely example of Christian womanhood BUT she was not a cook. I guess she really felt no need for a big kitchen when her family had most of their meals at the college.  When this home was built, it had NO cabinets and the only counter space was what you see in my picture. That is still the only counter space in the kitchen.  The kitchen was re-modeled sometime later, and again in the mid-70's to add cabinets above the sink and on the other walls.

I wish I did have a bit more counter space.  I also wish I didn't have to have my washer and dryer in the kitchen, too.  The house of my dreams includes a separate laundry room....maybe one of these days.  Until then, while I'm living in the "house of my reality" I make do with what I have.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Everything old is new again...Reconditioning Cast Iron

  A couple of months ago I was looking for a small cast iron skillet that I thought we had around here somewhere and, lo and behold, I found the mother lode of cast iron cookware hidden way back in a kitchen cabinet.  There were four skillets of various sizes, and two dutch ovens. Ok, maybe not exactly "the mother lode" of cast iron, but I had certainly forgotten their existence.  None of the pieces were in good condition - in fact, they really looked like they might be beyond help and destined for the scrap heap.  Fortunately, a little googling around led me to this post at  Black Iron Blog about restoring cast iron.  Wow!  I've been slowly but surely reconditioning my pieces and I'm so happy to be able to use them again.  I started with the small skillets and just finished with one of the dutch ovens and I thought that I'd post about my latest project here.

Here's what I used: oven cleaner, vinegar, heavy duty plastic bag, 000 steel  wool
(Ignore the container of ammonia on the left - it was NOT used in this process.)

Here's the grody dutch oven and lid. Is that white stuff mildew? Gross.
Ok, I got my trusty kitchen gloves on, moved to a well -ventilated area, put the D.O.w/L in the large bag, and sprayed it down with the oven cleaner.  I then set the whole thing into an old roasting pan and left it for a week.  That's right. I left it alone. Did not touch it. At all. Practically forgot about it. Then today I pulled it out and scrubbed it down with hot soapy water and a scrubby sponge.  The old coating mostly came off. It came completely off the inside, but there were still areas that didn't come off of the outside.
Here's the DOw/L stewing in the oven cleaner. 

What they looked like today after I scrubbed off the oven cleaner.

Since the D.O. didn't have very much rust on it, I simply rubbed off the rust with the steel wool. The lid got to soak in the vinegar/hot water bath (1 quart vinegar/1 gallon hot water) for about 20 minutes, then I rubbed it down with the steel wool as well.

Here's the lid taking its bath.
I followed Black Iron Dude's instructions for oven temp, rubbing the heated cast iron with oil, etc., and ended up with this:

TaDa!  Lovely almost like new reconditioned Dutch Oven.

I'm cooking our supper in my "new" cast iron dutch oven.

My first musings

So, I've finally taken the plunge to start a blog.  A spot for all the ideas swirling around in my head to find a place to land.  And I'll get started on that soon...just as soon as I make myself a fresh pot of tea.