Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Foolishness

What do you think? C or D cups?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Storm In A Teacup

I am not where I expected to be tonight. The plan was that I would go to the airport before dawn, get on an airplane and fly. When it landed I'd be in OC country and, with a little luck, he'd be there waiting, more or less patiently.

But Tropical Storm Fay had other plans. Actually, didn't seem to have much of a plan at all. Just swirling around in the Caribbean, getting her knickers in a twist. Not to mention how she livened life up for the weathermen, whose lives, if you think about it, must be rather dull. All those charts, yawnnnn! She couldn't make up her mind where she wanted to go...or if she should go for the gusto and become a full blown hurricane.

What is it they say? Indecision is the hallmark of the female? I can identify. I dithered. Talked to my neighbour, who was nailing boards up around his house. He likes to keep busy, which is probably more than sixty percent of why he was doing that. But he and his wife persuaded me that the prudent thing to do would be to postpone my trip until Wednesday. I didn't need much of a push. The airline had no more of a clue what Fay might do than the weathermen, and said I could delay my departure until the next morning without any penalty.


Woke up this morning. Weather seemed a little grey, but calm. Checked the airport website. The flight I should have been on had left on time. No hitches. Drat!

If I had not postponed it, then for sure a hurricane would have roared down on us, uprooted trees, ripped roofs from houses, sent gulf water rushing inland, causing evacuations all around, people running in circles, highways jammed.

But, funnily enough, no-one has called to thank me for averting disaster. You'd think the weathermen could at least send a nod of acknowledgement my way for my part in ensuring that the whole thing fizzled. But no, not a word, not a wink. I'll think twice next time.

Meanwhile I've had extra time to organise myself. Take as little as possible, I tell myself, since my natural tendency is to take everything but the kitchen sink. And then only use a fraction of it. But one has to consider the weather up there. Colder than here. Even in August. But I'll be helping the OC to drag back here all the goods and chattels he's accumulated in two years there. Don't need to add too many of my own. Yes! He's coming home. No more winters in the deep freeze! As luck would have it, his computer recently imploded. And Dell is not rushing over in anything vaguely resembling a timely fashion, to kiss it and make it better.

So. I may be out of the loop for a week or two, but fear not, I'll be back! Meantime books and sewing have been squeezed into my bag.

Now I just hope the weathermen don't find anything else to cause a stir about until my plane takes off in the morning!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Just Say No!

No matter what part of the world you live in, it seems, you regularly hear horrid tales about the evils of drug abuse. I have nothing new to add to that debate.

I am more concerned with a less common, but no less pernicious phenomenon, the problem of chocolate abuse among otherwise upstanding housewives. I refer, of course, to the GMCCD [Great Microwave Chocolate Cake Debate] over at Thimbleanna's. That is the action of a truly desperate woman. As with other kinds of substance abuse, it's often not until you've hit rock bottom that you find the courage to mend your ways. I think making a chocolate cake in the microwave represents rock bottom in this instance.

Thimbleanna is a sweet lady. A devoted wife and mother. Funny and talented. I think this issue has crept up on her, and she probably doesn't realise the danger she is in. If she continues on this path, who knows where she might end up?

Living under a bridge?

Dumpster diving behind the Godiva store?

Begging for Hershey Kisses on the streets of Indiana?

One shudders for her......

As we all know, chocolate is an essential ingredient in the maintenance of mental health, particularly for women. With that in mind, a wise woman stashes chocolate in various places throughout her house. She will not, especially as she advances in age, necessarily remember all these hiding places, but she should not let such a minor drawback deter her from stashing, plenty, and often. She will find it when she least expects to, and, if God's in His heaven, when she needs it most. There is no greater bonus in life than rummaging for something in a little-used drawer, only to have one's fingers close unexpectedly around a bar of Ritter Sport Cappuccino, or some Lindt Truffles, or Belgian Seashells. Planted there for a rainy, hormonal, climbing-the-walls kind of day. And promptly forgotten.

Obviously Thimbleanna made no such provisions.

At her lowest ebb, she resorted to making a chocolate cake in her microwave. It makes one sad to even think about it.

And so, because I am kindhearted, and want to help her with her chocolate abuse problem, and prevent others from going down the same path to hell, I have decided to share my swoon-inducing recipe for chocolate cake. A recipe that gives a wide berth to the microwave. A recipe that is easy and delicious, and equal to the job of taming that chocolate-craving monster within.

The oven should be preheated to 350 degrees F and the following ingredients assembled:

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tblsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats [not instant]
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened [I prefer butter]
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
A generous handful of semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Confectioners' sugar

The chocolate chips can be omitted, but then why bother with the cake at all?
The world will likewise not cave in should you wish to skip the nuts.
I sometimes toss a Tblsp of instant coffee crystals in with the oatmeal and water, depending on whether or not I'm in a mocha kind of mood. To get a strong coffee flavour you'd probably have to dump the entire jar in. Which might then scuttle the whole point of the exercise, which is to placate the monster, not give him caffeine jitters. Better not.
And lastly, it's not required, but I usually add 1 tsp of vanilla.

Proceed then,thusly:

Stir together the flour,salt,soda,and cocoa; set aside.
Mix oatmeal and boiling water together in a large bowl; let stand about 10 minutes.
Stir in butter and both kinds of sugar.
Add eggs and mix well.
Beat in the flour mixture and the nuts, if using; mix well.
Spread the batter in a greased and floured 13"x 9"x 2" pan. Sprinkle the chocolate pieces on top. The original recipe instructs one to toss half the chips into the batter and to sprinkle the rest on top. I prefer to sprinkle them all on top so they don't sink to the bottom!

Bake in a preheated 350 degree [F] oven for 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.Do not overbake. Moist is yummier.

Cool the cake in the pan.

You could frost the cake with your favourite chocolate frosting, but that smacks to me of gilding the lily. Besides, it never lasts long enough at my house to get the frosting on! A little sprinkle of powdered sugar just before serving, or [yum!] a dollop of whipped cream, is embellishment enough. It's a great cake to send to kids away at school,as it keeps well. I would recommend to Thimbleanna that she store the cake in plain sight, where her family can see it and help her to demolish it. If, however, her addiction is flaring, she could hide it in a paper bag in the laundry room and eat it all herself. But in that case I think I'd have to refer her to a twelve step program......

I think she will find that this recipe will cure her of any temptation to resort to eating microwaved excuses-for-chocolate-cake, that I have to think would be akin to chewing on old leather. So if any of you are overcome by a sudden urge to make a chocolate cake in the microwave, fight it! Be strong! Make this one instead.

Your taste buds will thank you! And you'll avoid the pain and expense of rehab.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Finished By Friday!

"Finished by Friday" will never be a regular feature of this blog, but on this, the thirty third Friday of the year, I finished something! [Drum roll please.] A quilt for my granddaughter's upcoming sixth birthday. Of course it wasn't a one woman project. When friends heard I was making a hexagon quilt they generously scoured their stashes for suitable fabrics. And all you quilting bloggers pitched in with border advice. Thanks especially to Birdy who had a brilliant plan! See how well I follow orders when I agree with them? And Don, the quilterman, has to get some of the credit, since the goal was her sixth birthday, not her tenth.

But it's done, and, for a wonder, in plenty of time. So I am one happy little bunny, as my silent sister is fond of saying.

May I draw your attention to the backing fabric?

A fortuitous find, since S is learning to read, and can put in a little practice on her quilt now. Not least of this fabric's charms was its 50% off sale price!

I get almost as much fun out of my "photo shoots" when I finish a quilt as I do out of the making. But it has been soggy here for the last few weeks. As I squelched out to the trees, being careful to hold the quilt well up off the wet and muddy ground, and inching my way carefully among various growing things so they would not release a shower of leaf-suspended droplets onto my head, my eyes fell on a new batch of passion flowers. I wish I could send one to S with her quilt.

It blends so nicely with all that purple and pink! Since Marlene's recent comment about the Fibonacci sequence I've been looking at flowers with even more fascination than usual. Amazing to think that the basis of so many things of beauty is mathematical....when, for a large part of my life I thought mathematics was dry and dull, a necessary evil. Just goes to show you're never too old to change your mind..... a concept I could maybe introduce to my father-in-law.......but that's a whole 'nother story!

There's a down side to this finishing business. I lose myself in creative quilting projects as protection against the "slings and arrows".......So now what will I do? Lalalalalalala........ I think I'll be a good girl and work on my oft-mentioned hand piecing......If I persevere I should be good for another "Finished by Friday" by, say, the fiftieth Friday of the year?

Watch this space.

But don't forget to breathe.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

For Thimbleanna.....

I think Thimbleanna's latest post had us all in tears. I thought that nothing I could say would say what I wanted to say as well as Erma Bombeck said it. I've had this taped on the wall in my kitchen for forever. [I really ought to get a nicer copy and frame it!] But the words mean the same, read in a fancy frame or on a dog-eared clipping.....

Children Are Like Kites
Erma Bombeck

You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground.
You run with them until you are both breathless.
They crash. They hit the rooftop.
You patch and comfort, adjust and teach.
You watch them lifted by the wind and assure them that
someday, they will fly.
Finally, they are airborne;
They need more string and you keep letting it out;
But with each twist of the ball of twine,
There is a sadness that goes with joy.
The kite becomes more distant and you know it won't be long before that
beautiful creature will snap the lifeline that binds you two together and
will soar, free and alone.
Only then do you know that you did your job.

There now, Thimbleanna. Don't you feel better?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hidden In The Bushes

I was out in the shady part of the garden early this morning, watering some plants, and getting tangled up in cobwebs. The spiders must hate to see me coming. If I spot a web I try not to disturb it, but these spinners use such gossamer threads I sometimes blunder through their intricate creations before I realise they're there.

This fellow is new this year, at least to me. Don't know what he's called, but I envy his spinning skills!

Looks like my buddy, the orb weaver has snagged himself some breakfast. He's so patient. Every time I wreck one of his beautiful webs, he just sighs and sets to work again, repairing the damage....

As I ducked under trees and around shrubs, which grow a little wild in there, I came upon an hibiscus blossom, lying limp on the ground. It made me sad because just the other day, when I was in that same spot, I didn't notice any blossoms on the hibiscus. And here was this unsung beauty, her gauzy, peach coloured skirts already sinking into the oblivion of dead leaves and mulch, before anyone even realised she was there.

It made me wonder how many people who are brilliant, beautiful, and full of promise, blossom, bloom and live out their lives in total obscurity, their beauty and brilliance and promise never amounting to anything as they get caught and tangled up in the cobwebs of life..........

Friday, August 08, 2008

Decisions, Decisions!

"What are your favourite colours these days?" I asked S on the phone recently.

I had a pretty good idea what the answer would be, but it's always best to check. When you're a few weeks shy of six, your favourite colours can change as often as your underwear.

"Pink and purple," she told me.

Aha! I love it when I'm right!

So the hexagons are all together --- finished today. Seen here guarding my messy sewing room closet from prying eyes!

But as any quilt maker knows, that doesn't mean I'm done.

I'm thinking borders here.

Pink and purple borders.

Which is where you all come in! Time is of the essence. It really needs to be finished finished by next Friday.

I've decided on the first border, a pale-ish pink batik with shades of purple.

Where I need help is in deciding what to use for the outside border.

What do you think of this combination?

I'd bind it in the same dark purple.

Or, how about this wild batik,

which I would attempt to tame a little with a dark purple binding.

I could also drive to the quilt shop tomorrow and find something there.

Or one of you might have a brilliant suggestion which wouldn't require me to drive anywhere. Because if I go to the quilt shop, there goes the entire day!

When her little brother got his quilt in the mail, S confided to her dad that she would like the next quilt Grandma made for her to be a star quilt too.....

But Grandma doesn't do encores. Especially when they'd take as long to do as that one! So hexagons it is. I've used each fabric at least twice so she can have some fun matching them.

OK, I lied! There are a couple in the bottom right hand corner that don't have mates. I was getting desperate at that stage, OK?

Oh, and one other thing. Is there a formula for how wide one's borders should be for the most pleasing effect? I'm always making it up as I go along, but in this case it would be good to at least be aware of the "rules!"

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Bag Lady Cometh....

A few summers ago, when I was home for a visit, I noticed that Rise had a bundle of cloth bags of various stripes that she always took with her when she went shopping. The Irish Government, she told me, disgusted with the horrible festooning of hedgerows throughout the countryside with cheap, indestrucible plastic bags, and horrified, I'm sure, at the thought of the detrimental effect it might have on tourism, decided that shops could no longer pack customers' purchases in free plastic bags. If customers wanted plastic bags they would have to pay for them!

The Irish don't like parting with their pennies any more than the rest of the world, so cloth bags were resurrected from dim corners, cubby holes under stairs, and cobwebby attics, given a good shake, and pressed into service. Almost overnight, the hedgerows were restored to their natural, unadorned beauty.

One small change made an enormous improvement.

So, I thought, if the whole of Ireland can change their evil ways overnight, surely I can do my small part to rid the planet of the plastic pestilence? And pestilence it is.

I used to think I was being virtuous when I'd ask for paper rather than plastic. But according to some articles I read recently, paper bags, while having the advantage of being biodegradeable, are costly and polluting to produce. They do however decompose in a matter of months.

The plastic bags we discard today, on the other hand, will still be around a thousand years from now. Although I'm not sure who made the trip into the future to discover that little nugget of information! It really is a shame that some other, necessary consumer goods can't be made as durable as the pesky plastic bag! Imagine buying a refrigerator today with the confidence that it will still be in use by our descendants, generations from now, while we're busy pushing up daisies!

One of the articles declared plastic bags second only to cigarette butts as nuisance litter. The gentlest breeze renders them airborne. Here in Florida,according to the article, bags are flushed down storm drains into the bays and the gulf, where they get tangled in mangrove thickets, and pose a hazzard to marine life. Wading birds get caught in them and turtles try to eat them, cannot digest the plastic, and die.

In a recent cleanup, volunteers removed 187 plastic shopping bags from one small pond in a park not too far south of here..... For one thing, isn't it appalling that people discard anything, by tossing it wherever and whenever they no longer need it? How much stress would it cause them to take it to the nearest rubbish bin?

It turned out that I had several cloth bags lying around.

One from an AF base we were once stationed at......

One with some company's name stencilled on it.....

Two quilty ones.

And one from a cruise line.

I've never been on a cruise. Inherited that one from the in-laws, who have. It's always the last one I produce, and only if I have to. I'm skittish about being mistaken for the kind of person who goes on cruises. Tootling around on the high seas, eating and drinking more than is necessary, or wise, while half the world starves, visiting places where the yearly per capita income is less than the cost of a ticket for the cruise---not high on my list of things to do before I die......

I kept my bundle of bags in the laundry room, right next to the garage, where, theoretically, I'd see and remember them as I headed out the door. Unfortunately, nobody told the bags they'd have to hiss at me like venomous snakes in order for me to notice them as I sailed by. I'd set off for the store and forget all about them. Until I got there. Fat lot of good they did then, sitting, useless, in my laundry room!

Brilliant idea number two: I decided I'd keep them in the car, on the back seat. Only trouble was, since I usually sit up front while operating the vehicle [Oh ye unbelievers! I have too driven while seated in the back---in my capacity as a Back Seat Driver---ask the OC] I'd still forget all about them until I arrived, cart groaning, at the checkout.

So, I moved them to the front passenger seat. If the penny drops at all around here it drops s.l.o.w.l.y......

I've been doing this for about two years now, and most of the time, unless I'm especially distracted, I remember to bring them into the store. The grocery store staff are used to me now.

The Bag Lady cometh.

Although, just last week, I set my bags on the belt first, then my groceries. There was a new girl bagging that day. She took my bundle of cloth bags and crammed them into a plastic bag!! Sigh........

The object of the exercise is to not use the accursed things at all. Most of them get that. Those who don't are destined to die young from Idonthaveaclueitis. Fortunately, the condition is curable. With the application of a little thought.

So, if you haven't already, find yourself a few sturdy cloth bags.

Then use them.

Every time.

This fellow will thank us.

Too late for this guy,

but his descendents will be grateful!

If even one person reading this is motivated to start using cloth bags in place of plastic, I'll consider that I've done my bit for the environment.

At least for today.